How to Get Started on the Common App: The 2017-2018 Personal Statement Prompts

help - wordsGreetings, class of 2022! That has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? At Veritas Prep, there’s nothing like a change of seasons – the distinct shift from one application season to another is immensely exciting to us. And, there is no better indicator of a new season than the release of Personal Statement prompts from The Common App. Class of 2022, now is your time!

The Common Application officially kicked off the 2017/18 application season by releasing their Personal Statement prompts back in February. Now is the best time to start working on crafting your answers to one of these prompts – by starting your writing during the summer, you’ll have more time to create the perfect response without worrying about school responsibilities or extracurriculars come Fall.

Year after year, The Common Application collaborates with their partner institutions to make sure that the prompts meet the needs of each school and are yielding quality essay responses from students around the world. While some elements remain unchanged (including the 650 word count), this year they have decided to make revisions to existing prompts AND add two new prompts to the mix!

Without further ado, here are the 2017/2018 Common Application Essay Prompts:

1) Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. [No change]

2) The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure.How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]

3) Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]

4) Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. [No change]

5) Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]

6) Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? [New]

7) Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design[New]

Over the next few months, we will break down every prompt for the 2017/2018 application season with in-depth coaching on how we would suggest you approach each prompt. Check back in soon for more!

Do you need more help navigating the college admissions process? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

How to Use Ratios in GMAT Verbal Questions

SAT/ACTI’ve written in the past about the GMAT’s tendency to use simple math concepts in the context of a Critical Reasoning question. One instance of this phenomenon is the test’s predilection for incorporating ratios in the Verbal section. It makes sense for the question-writers to do this. If we think about the types of core concepts you’re likely to encounter in your future MBA program: output/worker or price/earnings, etc., simple ratios are inescapable.

Here’s all we need to know:

  • If the numerator increases and the denominator remains constant, the ratio will increase.
  • If the denominator increases and the numerator remains constant, the ratio will decrease.

From this, we can also intuit that if the ratio doubled and the denominator remained constant, the numerator must have doubled. And if the ratio doubled and the numerator remained constant, the denominator must have been halved. Pretty simple, right? For whatever reason, these concepts tend not to produce any difficulty in the Quantitative section when test-takers are expecting them, but cause all sorts of problems when they crop up in Verbal questions. Let’s see an example.

That the application of new technology can increase the productivity of existing coal mines is demonstrated by the case of Tribnia’s coal industry. Coal output per miner in Tribnia is double what it was five years ago, even though no new mines have opened. 

Which of the following can be properly concluded from the statement about coal output per miner in the passage?

A) If the number of miners working in Tribnian coal mines has remained constant in the past five years, Tribnia’s total coal production has doubled in that period of time.
B) Any individual Tribnian coal mine that achieved an increase in overall output in the past five years has also experienced an increase in output per miner.
C) If any new coal mines had opened in Tribnia in the past five years, then the increase in output per miner would have been even greater than it actually was.
D) If any individual Tribnian coal mine has not increased its output per miner in the past five years, then that mine’s overall output has declined or remained constant.
E) In Tribnia the cost of producing a given quantity of coal has declined over the past five years. 

As soon as we see “per” we know we’re dealing with a ratio problem. In this case, we’re discussing coal output per miner. As a ratio, or fraction, this can be expressed as follows: Total Coal Output/Total Number of Miners. Further, we know that this ratio has doubled over the last five years. Employing the logic we used earlier, we now know that because the ratio doubled, if the number of miners (the denominator) remained constant, then the coal output (the numerator) doubled. And we also know that if the coal output (the numerator) remained constant, then the number of miners (the denominator) must have been halved. If we recognize this relationship, the correct answer is going to leap out at us.

  1. This is a restatement of the relationship we’ve already documented – namely that if the denominator remained constant, the numerator must have doubled. Clearly, we’ve got our answer. (But it’s still helpful to evaluate why all the wrong answer choices are incorrect, something you should be doing with every practice problem you attempt.)
  2. We can’t deduce what any individual coal mine has achieved based on the output per worker of all the mines in aggregate.
  3. Again, there’s no way to know what the productivity level of any mine might have been, let alone a hypothetical new one.
  4. If we understand how ratios work, we can see that this is not necessarily true. If the ratio has not increased, there are two possible explanations. First, the numerator has not increased. (This is what’s stated in the answer choice.) Second, the denominator has increased by more than the numerator has increased. Therefore we don’t know that output has declined or remained constant. It could be the case that the number of miners has gone up.
  5. This is out of scope. We don’t know what’s happened to the cost of producing coal.

The correct answer is A.

Takeaway: You see plenty of ratios in Critical Reasoning, so make sure you understand that when a ratio changes, it means that either the numerator or denominator (or both) has changed. If you treat these questions as simple Quant problems rather than as abstruse Verbal questions, you’re far less likely to be tripped up.

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

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

GMAT Prerequisites: What are the GMAT Requirements to Take the Test?

ChecklistDoes your career path include an MBA? If so, there are several steps on the path leading to business school. One of those steps involves taking the Graduate Management Admission Test, also known as the GMAT. But before taking the test, you should get acquainted with the GMAT prerequisites and make sure you’re prepared to take on this important challenge.

GMAT Requirements
There are not a lot of GMAT prerequisites when it comes to specific types of education. For instance, a bachelor’s degree is not a GMAT requirement. However, the material you learn as a business major in undergraduate school can contribute to your performance on the GMAT. One GMAT requirement found on the official website is that anyone who is under 18 years old must have written permission from a parent or legal guardian to take the GMAT.

Registering for the GMAT
Among the basic GMAT requirements is, of course, registering for the test. Opening an account on the official GMAT website is the simplest way to register. You can schedule a test, cancel, reschedule, or find a testing center via your account. Finding a testing center near you is an easy task. All you do is enter your ZIP code, address, or city and state in the search bar. Your test center options will appear on the screen. If you have a documented disability, you can check into accommodations using your account. Another GMAT requirement is the scheduling fee, which is $250.

What Is on the GMAT?
The purpose of the GMAT is to determine whether you are a good candidate for business school. Of course, your GMAT score isn’t the only qualification considered by business schools, but in many cases, your score carries a lot of weight with admissions officials. The GMAT is made up of four sections: Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal, and Analytical Writing. Questions in the Integrated Reasoning section test your ability to evaluate information delivered in the form of graphs, charts, tables, and more. Questions in the Quantitative section measure your arithmetic, geometry and algebra skills. Data analysis is also a part of the Quantitative section. The Verbal section features reading comprehension, sentence correction, and critical reasoning questions. The Analytical Writing section of the exam measures your ability to evaluate an argument while supplying solid evidence to support your points.

How to Prepare for the GMAT
Taking a practice test is a great place to start when preparing for the GMAT. At Veritas Prep, we provide you with the opportunity to take a free test to get an accurate picture of your skills before the GMAT. Your detailed test results reveal your strongest skills as well as the ones that need improvement. The GMAT curriculum at Veritas Prep thoroughly prepares you for each section on the exam. But instead of just presenting you with facts to memorize, our experienced instructors teach you how to apply what you know to solve problems. Questions on the GMAT gauge your ability to think like a businessperson.

How Much Time Does it Take to Prepare for the Test?
There is no hard and fast rule on how long you should take to prep for the GMAT. Some people spend one month studying for this test, while others dedicate several weeks to their preparations. After studying for a few weeks, you may want to take another practice test to gauge the progress you’ve made since you took your first practice GMAT. Your score on the second practice test can be an excellent indicator of whether you are ready to take the official exam. There is plenty of general advice concerning the test, but you have to make your own decision as to when you’re ready.

We are proud to offer first-rate GMAT tutoring at Veritas Prep. We’ve done the research and come up with a study program that has proven successful for our students time and again. Our study resources teach you how to think like the test-maker, and when you sign up with us, you’ll study with instructors who scored in the 99th percentile on the GMAT. In addition to that, they are expert teachers who know how to convey powerful lessons. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’re learning strategies and tips from the very best! Contact Veritas Prep today to achieve excellence on the GMAT.

ACT Geometry Practice and Tips

tutoringThe Math section on the ACT challenges you with several types of questions. About 12 to 15 percent of those questions are related to geometry. Putting a few easy tips into practice can help you to perform your best on the ACT geometry questions.

Memorize Formulas
As you prep for these questions, it’s a good idea to memorize some basic formulas of geometry. Some formulas are not provided for you on the test. A few examples include:

  • Volume = (area of base) (height)
  • Circle circumference = 2πr
  • Circle area = πr2
  • Rectangle = lwh

When you memorize basic geometry formulas, you’ll be able to work through the questions in a timely and efficient way. Of course, knowing the formulas is not enough: You must be able to put them into practice.

Take Timed Practice Tests
Working through ACT geometry practice questions is an essential part of preparing for this section of the test. However, don’t forget to time your practice tests. You have 60 minutes to complete all 60 questions on the ACT Math section. This means you have no more than a minute to dedicate to each one. Chances are good that you’ll spend just a few seconds on some questions and up to 30 seconds on others. Completing a timed practice test is an excellent way to establish a test-taking rhythm so you know when to move on to the next problem. You can always skip a problem that is especially puzzling and return to it later on. Ideally, you want to finish the Math section with a few minutes to spare so you can review your answers.

Analyze Incorrect Answers to Practice Questions
Analyzing the answers to your ACT geometry practice questions should be part of your test prep. If you got an answer wrong, it’s important to go back and look at your work. Where did you make the mistake? You may find that you’ve made the same mistake on other problems. This is helpful information because once you’re aware of it, you can avoid making the same error again. An important question to ask is, “Why did I make that mistake?” You may find that you rushed through a problem, forgetting part of the formula, or perhaps you calculated the area when the question asked for the perimeter. Being aware of why you made a mistake can help you refocus and avoid making the same errors.

Draw Diagrams and Shapes
You can use scratch paper on the ACT. Drawing shapes and diagrams can help you to organize the elements of each geometry question. Also, you can write down the formula for a problem as well as its steps so you can review what went wrong if your answer is not among the options. It’s unnecessary to mentally picture a shape labeled with all of its measurements as well as the formula that goes with the problem. Using your scratch paper saves time and can clarify each step in the process.

Eliminate Wrong Answer Choices
Another tip to remember as you practice ACT geometry problems is to get into the habit of eliminating answer options that are clearly incorrect. Dealing with fewer answer options can make a problem look a lot simpler. Also, it can help you complete all of the problems more quickly.

Practice Throughout the Day
It’s a good idea to create a detailed study schedule that includes practicing your geometry skills for the ACT. In addition to that, try reviewing geometry problems throughout the day. One idea is to make flashcards that display the different formulas you need to memorize. Keep them in your bag or pocket to review while you’re standing in line to buy lunch, waiting for the bus, or waiting for class to begin. Studying and reviewing throughout the day gives you several more opportunities to sharpen your geometry skills outside of your formal study time.

The professional instructors at Veritas Prep are experts when it comes to geometry, algebra, statistics, and every other type of math on the ACT. In fact, we can prep you for all sections of the test! You’ll study with an instructor who scored in the 99th percentile on the exam. Plus, we give you several options so you can study for the ACT in a way that is most convenient for you. We have online and in-person courses, private tutoring, and On Demand instruction. Call today and give us the opportunity to guide you toward excellence on the ACT!

Tackling GMAT Critical Reasoning Boldface Questions

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomFor 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!

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

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!

Which SAT Prep Course is Right for Me?

StudentThe SAT is divided into four sections. Maybe you’re confident about the Math and Reading sections of the test but you’re a little unsure about writing the essay. Or perhaps you’re looking for study help on all sections of the SAT. Either way, you may be wondering, “Which SAT prep course is the best for me?” Taking some time to answer this question can help you study in an efficient way for this important exam. Fortunately, students have several effective options to choose from.

In-Person Courses
One option is in-person prep courses. These are conducted in much the same way as the classes you take at school, so if you learn best when you’re in a dynamic classroom environment, then this may be the best choice for you. Hearing the questions and comments of other students may lend to your own learning process. It’s important to think about your preferred learning environment when deciding which SAT prep course is the best for you.

Online Courses
These courses are identical in every way to the in-person option except that they are taken online. An instructor conducts the prep course live while you listen and learn via computer at home or in another environment of your choosing. The lessons are interactive, so you can ask questions and receive answers as if the instructor is in the same room with you. One of the main advantages of this option is that you don’t have to travel to a particular location to receive quality preparation for the SAT. If you’re someone who enjoys online learning and can maintain focus without being in an actual classroom, then this may be the best learning option for you. Furthermore, if you like to use technology such as an interactive whiteboard and instant messaging in the course of your studies, then you may want to go with SAT prep courses conducted online.

Private Tutoring Sessions
Have you ever worked with a tutor who helped you improve your grades in math, English, or another class in school? If so, you may want to get a private tutor to help you prepare for the SAT. Signing up for private tutoring sessions gives you the opportunity to have a customized study plan. You can get prompt answers to all of your questions, allowing you to progress in your studies. Also, during your sessions, you can practice the strategies taught to you by your instructor. Private tutoring sessions can be conducted either in person or online. Either way, this is an ideal situation if you enjoy working one-on-one with someone who cares about your success on the SAT as much as you do.

On-Demand Instruction
Are you someone who likes to have a lot of control over the pace of your lessons? If so, then on-demand instruction could be the ideal choice you. Our On Demand instruction option allows you to study for the SAT in your own way. Your lessons are conveyed by professional instructors via HD video. If you feel that you want to go back to review a lesson or topic, you’re free to do that. In addition, you can choose a study environment that suits your preferences. Some students like to study at home, while others use a study room at the local library or settle in in a quiet corner of a restaurant. As long as you have Internet access, you can study practically anywhere.

At Veritas Prep, we offer all of these options to students who are preparing for the SAT. We provide you with several types of instruction so you can choose the one that’s most suitable for you. Each of our SAT instructors is more than qualified to guide you to success on the exam. In fact, we only hire instructors who earned an SAT score landing them in the 99th percentile. Because of their practical experience with the test, our tutors know how to approach the SAT as well as what strategies work the best. We give you tips you can use both before and during the test. Take a moment to browse our selection of SAT prep options and choose the one that appeals most to you. The team at Veritas Prep is here to help you ace the SAT!

What is a School Code for, and Why Do I Need it?

SAT Scantron TestAs you register for the ACT, you’ll see that there are codes for different institutions, both high schools and colleges. Entering the proper code for a school seems like a small detail, but it’s a significant step in the ACT registration process.

The Purpose of High School Codes
You have to submit a code for your high school before you’re officially signed up to take the ACT. High school codes are used by the ACT to make sure that each student’s score report is delivered to the proper location. Assigning a code to every high school makes it easier for the ACT to connect each student with a high school as well as a testing location.

How Do I Find My High School Code?
You can find the proper code for your school while registering for the ACT. High school codes can be accessed via the test’s official website, ACT.org. Simply go to the high school code search tool on the website and enter your country, state, and city in the blanks. Click on “search” and you’ll see the name of your high school accompanied by its assigned code. If you are homeschooled, be sure to consult the special instructions on the ACT’s website.

The Purpose of College Codes
Once you have your high school code in place, it’s time to take a look at college codes for the ACT. College codes are used to organize the process of sending your ACT scores to universities. Instead of typing the names of colleges on your registration forms, you’ll enter codes that represent those colleges. This helps the ACT to avoid sending a student’s score reports to the wrong colleges. Keep in mind that each year, there are millions of students who take the ACT. College codes prove very helpful in keeping all of those score reports sorted out and headed to the right places.

How to Find College Codes
There is a college code search tool on the ACT’s official website. Simply click on the state and city where the college is located. You will receive results that include the name of the college and its code.

Preparing for the ACT
Finding high school and college codes is the easy part of getting ready for the ACT. The more challenging part is actually getting down to work and studying for this important test. The first thing on your to-do list should be to take a timed practice ACT test. The results let you know how your skills measure up on the English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing portions of the exam. Plus, a practice test can give you insight on your test-taking skills. Did you finish all of the Math questions in the allotted 60 minutes? If not, you can begin to refresh your math skills to reduce the time it takes to finish each problem.

Often, it’s helpful to have expert guidance when preparing for a standardized test. This is where the ACT instructors at Veritas Prep come in. Each of our professional instructors not only took the ACT but achieved a score of at least 33 out of 36 on the test. Making the decision to prep for the ACT with our instructors means you’ll be studying with experts on the material. You’ll receive a customized study plan that addresses your weakest skills and gives you strategies to boost your abilities in those areas. Each instructional session is valuable and productive because we pair you with a tutor who understands the way you learn. We are proud to say that our proven strategies and practical tips have led many students to success on the ACT.

Still not sure whether you want help studying for the ACT? Check out our ACT trial class for free to see for yourself what we have to offer you. You have a choice of online or in-person classes, private tutoring, or On Demand instruction. We give you several options to consider so you can settle on what works best for you. On top of all of that, we back up our instruction with a guarantee that your ACT score will improve. Contact Veritas Prep today and let us play a part in your victory over the ACT!

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Dealing with Complex Word Problems

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomIn studying for the GMAT, we often come across a strategy for how to handle complex questions – simplify them until they become a problem that we know how to solve. But how exactly does one simplify a complicated GMAT question? Let’s try to understand this with an example today:

Twenty-four men can complete a job in sixteen days. Thirty-two women can complete the same job in twenty-four days. Sixteen men and sixteen women started working on the job for twelve days. How many more men must be added to complete the job in 2 days?

(A) 16
(B) 24
(C) 36
(D) 48
(E) 54

Here, we are dealing with two groups of people: men and women. These two groups have different rates of completing a job. We are also told that a certain number of men and women do a part of the job, and we are asked to find the number of additional “men” required to finish the job in a shorter amount of time.

Recall that we have already come across questions where workers start some work and then more workers join in to complete the work before time.

The problem with this question is that we have two types of workers, not just one. So let’s try to simplify the question to a form that we know how to easily solve.

We’ll start by finding the relation between the rate of work done by men and the rate of work done by women. Let’s make the number of men and women the same to find the number of days it will take each group to complete 1 job.

Given: 24 men complete 1 job in 16 days

Given: 32 women complete 1 job in 24 days

So how many days will 24 women take to complete 1 work? (Why 24 women? Because we know how many days 24 men take)

We know how to solve this problem. (It has already been discussed in a past post).

32 women ……………. 1 work ………………. 24 days

24 women ……………. 1 work ………………. ?? days

No. of days taken = 24 * (32/24) = 32 days

Now this is what we have: 24 men take 16 days while 24 women take 32 days

So women take twice the time taken by men to do the same work (32 days vs 16 days). This means the rate of work of women is half the rate of work of men. This means 2 women are equivalent to 1 man i.e. 2 women will do the same work as 1 man does in the same time.

So now, let us replace all women by men so that we have only one type of worker.

Now this is our regular work rate question –

Given: 24 men complete the work in 16 days

Given: 16 men and 16 women work for 12 days

This means that we have 16 men and 8 men work for 12 days

which implies 24 men work for 12 days

We know that 24 men complete the work in 16 days. If they work for 12 days, there are 4 more days to go. But the work has to be completed in 2 days.

24 men …………… 4 days

?? men ……………. 2 days

No of men needed = 24 * (4/2) = 48

So we need 24 additional men to complete the work in 2 days.

Or looking at it another way, 24 men need 16 days to complete the work, so they need another 4 days to complete. But if we want them to complete the work in half the time (2 days), we will need twice the work force. So we need another 24 men.

Answer (B)

Basically, the question involved solving two smaller work-rate problems. Doesn’t seem daunting now, right?

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

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 Is Not A Player, It Just Crushes A Lot

GMAT Tip of the WeekOn this last day of Hip Hop Month in the GMAT Tip of the Week space, let’s talk about the big picture related to your GMAT score with a nod to one of hip hop’s most notorious B-I-Gs: Big Punisher. The “Big Punisher” of your GMAT score – the item that can take what would have been a great day and leave you walking away from the test sobbing “It’s So Hard” (another Big Pun hit…look it up – he had more than one!) – is poor time management.

On a test-taker’s route to a strong section score, there lie a handful of questions that tempt you to devote several fruitless minutes playing around with equations, calculations, and techniques that aren’t working. A few questions later you look at the clock and realize that even though 90% of the problems have gone well for you, you’re several minutes off your target pace…all because of that one big punisher, the question you should have left alone.

Fortunately, Big Punisher has a mantra for you to keep in mind on test day:

“I’m not a player, I just crush a lot”

Meaning, of course, that you’re not the kind of test-taker who aimlessly plays around with the 3-4 “big punisher” questions that will ruin the time you have left for the others. You quickly identify that no one question is worth taking your whole pacing strategy on (as Snoop would say, “I’m too swift on my toes to get caught up with you hos,” hos, of course, being short for “horribly involved problems that I’ll probably get wrong anyway) and bank that time for the many other problems that you’ll crush…a lot.

Functionally that means this: when you realize that you’re more likely wasting time than progressing toward a right answer, cut your losses and move on so that you save the time for the problems that you will undoubtedly get right…as long as you have a reasonable amount of time for them. You might consider paying homage to Big Pun by using his name as a quick mnemonic for your strategic options:

P: Pick Numbers. If the calculations or algebra you’re performing seems to either be going in circles or getting worse, look back and see if you could simply pick numbers instead. This often works when you’re dealing with variables as parts of the answer choices.

U: Use Answer Choices. Again, if you feel like you’re running in circles, check and see if there are clues in the answer choices or if you can plug them in and backsolve directly.

N: Not Worth My Time. And if a quick assessment tells you that you can’t pick numbers or use answer choices, recognize that this problem simply isn’t worth your time, and blow in a guess. Remember: you’re not a player – you won’t let the test bait you into playing with a single crazy question for more than a minute without a direct path to the finish line – so save the time to focus on crushing a lot of problems that you know you can crush.

On your journey to completing entire GMAT sections on time, heed Big Pun’s warning: don’t stop (to play around with questions you already know you’re not getting right), get it, get it – meaning pick up the pace to have meaningful time to spend on the questions you can get. The biggest punisher of what should be high GMAT scores is poor time management, almost always caused by spending far too long on just a few problems. So remember: you’re not a player on those problems…go out there and crush a lot of the problems you know you can crush.

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

By Brian Galvin.

GMAT Tip of the Week: Make J. Cole One of Your Critical Reasoning Role Modelz

GMAT Tip of the WeekToday, we’re going to discuss how a seemingly random hip-hop lyric relates to boosting your GMAT Score: “Don’t save her; she don’t want to be saved.” – J. Cole, “No Role Modelz”

One of the most common misconceptions that GMAT examinees have about the exam is that, while on quantitative questions, only one answer can be correct and everything else is wrong, on verbal questions “my wrong answer was good, but maybe not the best.” It is critical to realize that on GMAT verbal questions, exactly one answer is right and the other four are fatally flawed and 100% wrong! Visit a GMAT classroom or a GMAT Club forum thread discussing a Critical Reasoning problem, and you’re almost certain to see/hear students protesting for why their wrong answer could be right. “Well but what if the argument said X, would I be right?” “Well but what if instead of “some” it said “most” would it be right then?”

But students love trying to save an incorrect answer to verbal questions, and in particular Critical Reasoning questions. And to an extent that’s understandable: in high school and college, math was always black and white but in “verbal” classes (literature and the arts, history, philosophy…) as long as you could defend your stance or opinion you could be considered “right” even if that opinion differed from that of your professor. You could “save” an incorrect or unpopular position on an issue by finding a way to justify your stance, and in some cases you were even rewarded for proposing and defending an unorthodox, contrarian viewpoint. But on Critical Reasoning problems, remember this important mantra about incorrect answers:

Don’t save her; she don’t want to be saved.

Your job is to attack answer choices, looking for the flaw instead of looking for ways to defend. Each incorrect answer choice is specifically written so that someone will see something redeeming about part of it – otherwise no one would ever pick it and it would be a waste of an answer – so looking for ways to save an answer choice is a fool’s errand. If you’re looking for little things to like about answer choices you should find that in just about every answer choice you see. The operative word in “Critical Reasoning” is critical – you want to be as critical as you can, much like J. Cole is when he discusses his relationships in No Role Modelz.

Consider an example from the Veritas Prep Question Bank:

According to a recent study, employees who bring their own lunches to work take fewer sick days and and are, on average, more productive per hour spent at work than those who eat at the workplace cafeteria. In order to minimize the number of sick days taken by its staff, Boltech Industries plans to eliminate its cafeteria.

Which of the following, if true, provides the most reason to believe that Boltech Industries’ strategy will not accomplish its objective?

A) Boltech’s cafeteria is known for serving a diverse array of healthy lunch options.
B) Because of Boltech’s location, employees who choose to visit a nearby restaurant for lunch will seldom be able to return within an hour.
C) Employees have expressed concern about the cost of dining at nearby restaurants compared with the affordability of the Boltech cafeteria.
D) Employees who bring their lunch from home tend to lead generally healthier lifestyles than those of employees who purchase lunch.
E) Many Boltech employees chose to work for the company in large part because of the generous benefits, such as an on-site cafeteria and fitness center, that Boltech offers.

Less than half of all test-takers get this problem right, in large part because they try to “save” wrong answer choices. The goal of this plan is very clearly stated as “to minimize the number of sick days” but students very frequently pick choices B and E. With B, they try to save it by thinking “but isn’t being away from your desk a long time for a lunch really bad, too?” And the answer may very well be “yes” but the question specifically asks for a reason to think that the strategy will not achieve its objective, and that objective is very clearly stated as pertaining only to sick days.

“Well what if the plan was to minimize time away from employees’s desks?” students love to ask, committed to saving the bad answer choice. While that answer might be “yes,” the even bigger answer is “train yourself to stop trying to save wrong answers!” The study time you expend trying to create a situation in which your wrong answer would be right (“well with E, if the goal were employee retention then it would probably be right”) is time you spend reinforcing a habit that can get you in trouble on test day. Trying to save answers leads you both to wrong answers and to extra time spent on a hard decision, because, again, if your mindset is to look for the good in every answer choice those choices are written to give you something good to find!

So as you study, and especially on test day, heed the wisdom of J. Cole. If you fall into the trap of saving answers, tell the GMAT “fool me one time, shame on you; fool me twice can’t put the blame on you.” But most importantly, as you look at Critical Reasoning answer choices, don’t save her. She don’t want to be saved.

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

By Brian Galvin.

GMAT Tip of the Week: The Song Remains the Same

Welcome back to hip hop month in the GMAT Tip of the Week space, where we’re constantly asking ourselves, “Wait, where have I heard that before?” If you listen to enough hip hop, you’ll recognize that just about every beat or lyric you hear either samples from or derives from another track that came before it (unless, of course, the artist is Ol’ Dirty Bastard, for whom, as his nickname derives, there ain’t no father to his style).

Biggie’s “Hypnotize” samples directly from “La Di Da Di” (originally by Doug E. Fresh – yep, he’s the one who inspired “The Dougie” that Cali Swag District wants to teach you – and Slick Rick). “Biggie Biggie Biggie, can’t you see, sometimes your words just hypnotize me…” was originally “Ricky, Ricky, Ricky…” And right around the same time, Snoop Dogg and 2Pac just redid the entire song just about verbatim, save for a few brand names.

The “East Coast edit” of Chris Brown’s “Loyal”? French Montana starts his verse straight quoting Jay-Z’s “I Just Wanna Love U” (“I’m a pimp by blood, not relation, I don’t chase ’em, I replace ’em…”), which (probably) borrowed the line “I don’t chase ’em I replace ’em” from a Biggie track, which probably got it from something else. And these are just songs we heard on the radio this morning driving to work…

The point? Hip hop is a constant variation on the same themes, one of the greatest recycling centers the world has ever known.

And so is the GMAT.

Good test-takers – like veteran hip hop heads – train themselves to see the familiar within what looks (or sounds) unique. A hip hop fan often says, “Wait, where I have heard that before?” and similarly, a good test-taker sees a unique, challenging problem and says, “Wait, where have I seen that before?”

And just like you might recite a lyric back and forth in your mind trying to determine where you’ve heard it before, on test day you should recite the operative parts of the problem or the rule to jog your memory and to remind yourself that you’ve seen this concept before.

Is it a remainder problem? Flip through the concepts that you’ve seen during your GMAT prep about working with remainders (“the remainder divided by the divisor gives you the decimals; when the numerator is smaller then the denominator the whole numerator is the remainder…”).

Is it a geometry problem? Think of the rules and relationships that showed up on tricky geometry problems you have studied (“I can always draw a diagonal of a rectangle and create a right triangle; I can calculate arc length from an inscribed angle on a circle by doubling the measure of that angle and treating it like a central angle…”).

Is it a problem that asks for a seemingly-incalculable number? Run through the strategies you’ve used to perform estimates or determine strange number properties on similar practice problems in the past.

The GMAT is a lot like hip hop – just when you think they’ve created something incredibly unique and innovative, you dig back into your memory bank (or click to a jazz or funk station) and realize that they’ve basically re-released the same thing a few times a decade, just under a slightly different name or with a slightly different rhythm.

The lesson?

You won’t see anything truly unique on the GMAT. So when you find yourself stumped, act like the old guy at work when you tell him to listen to a new hip hop song: “Oh I’ve heard this before…and actually when I heard it before in the ’90s, my neighbor told me that she had heard it before in the ’80s…” As you study, train yourself to see the similarities in seemingly-unique problems and see though the GMAT’s rampant plagiarism of itself.

The repetitive nature of the GMAT and of hip hop will likely mean that you’re no longer so impressed by Tyga, but you can use that recognition to be much more impressive to Fuqua.

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

By Brian Galvin.

Surprising Insights from the 2018 U.S. News Ranking of Top Business Schools: Stanford Drops to #4

US News College RankingsAdmit it: In today’s online world, we just can’t peel ourselves away from top-10 lists of anything! And the world of MBA admissions is certainly no exception. Schools and applicants alike are obsessed with rankings.

In our opinion, the U.S. News & World Report ranking of business schools is the “best” in terms of ranking schools by selectivity in admissions and their reputations in the marketplace. Quite honestly, most MBA candidates are looking for an environment where they’ll be surrounded by incredible peers and where they’ll get the best job upon graduation, so we believe it’s a very good ranking method.

You’ll hear some admissions “gurus” tell people to ignore rankings altogether, but at Veritas Prep, we see an important role for them. If you understand the methodology used behind the rankings, then they can be a helpful first step in your MBA research process. The problems lie when rankings become your first and only step in selecting target schools!

The biggest headline to come out of the 2018 U.S. News & World Report survey of business schools is that perennial powerhouse, Stanford Graduate School of Business, has dropped from #1 to #4 this year. Stanford remains the most selective business school in the world, with an admissions rate of just 6% and an average GMAT score of 733 last year (and the Class of 2018 has a record-breaking 737 GMAT score average!). The average salary and bonus for Stanford MBA graduates is a whopping $153,553 – essentially the same as Harvard’s and just $2K behind Wharton’s. So what happened?!?

Employment is Stanford’s downfall

Stanford’s drop in this year’s rankings was due to two statistics that carry significant weight in the U.S. News Ranking: percentage of students with jobs at graduation and percentage of students with jobs three months after graduation. By all objective measures, Stanford’s performance in this area is abysmal: just 63% of GSB students had jobs at graduation last year, and only 82% were employed three months out. Compare that to the Tuck School at Dartmouth, where 87% of graduates already had a job lined up when they received their diplomas, and 96% had jobs within three months! In fact, Stanford ranks #74 when it comes to jobs at graduation. But, there’s more to the story….

Stanford graduates aren’t just “looking for a job”

The #1 priority of students at most MBA programs is to have a job once they graduate. During my time at Kellogg, for example, job offers were always greeted with the greatest celebration and the lack of them caused the greatest stress among my colleagues. One’s entire 2nd year might be dedicated to the pursuit of a job offer. However, Stanford GSB students tend to be different than just about anybody else – they aren’t just looking for a job; they’re looking to change the world…TODAY. “Pursue your dreams” is a mantra drilled into Stanford MBAs from the moment they step onto its Spanish Colonial-inspired campus.

As a result, in our analysis, we’ve found that fewer Stanford students are looking for “traditional” post-MBA jobs than at any other top-tier institution. It has the highest percentage of students who pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures upon graduation, although these students who report that they are starting their own business do not impact the school’s reported employment statistics.

In addition, more Stanford grads are willing to be patient to find just the right position to enable them to make a big impact in their chosen profession, industry, society, or the world. Armed with a Stanford MBA, they recognize that they can get a job eventually, so they tend not to worry about whether that’s before graduation or several months after.

In short, the U.S. News statistics expose a growing trend at Stanford to be extremely picky when it comes to job offers. However, it doesn’t properly capture what U.S. News is trying to show through the data, which is the availability of job opportunities for graduates of each program. Stanford grads have at least as many job opportunities as graduates from any other global MBA program, so this drop in the rankings should not deter any candidate from applying.

ASU Carey jumps 10 spots after offering free tuition

In our opinion, the biggest news from this year’s U.S. News rankings comes from Arizona State’s W.P. Carey School of Business. Jumping 10 spots in one year, Carey has landed a spot in the top-25 for the first time ever. Outside of the top-25, it’s not entirely uncommon for a school to jump or slide 10 or more spots in one year, but this news comes on the heels of some major innovations at the Carey MBA program.

Most notably, the school announced in 2015 that it would make its full-time MBA program tuition-free for 100% of students. As you can imagine, the prospect of free tuition sent applicants in droves to the school, driving down its admission rate to just 14% – this makes Carey one of the most selective MBA programs in the country, ahead of Wharton, Kellogg, Tuck, and Booth.

The school’s admissions stats, such as average GMAT and GPA, improved dramatically, as did it’s yield—71% of admitted applicants chose to attend, far stronger than most top MBA programs. It’s employment statistics are equally impressive, with 79% of students landing a job before they don their graduation caps and robes, and 95% securing work within three months. Not bad!

Arizona State University grabbed the #1 spot in the U.S. News’ 2018 ranking of the nation’s most innovative colleges and universities (Stanford is #2 and MIT is #3). Before we learned of Carey’s parent institution’s honor in the ranking, Veritas Prep had also dubbed ASU’s business school as the most innovative, as not only did the school drop its tuition for the full-time MBA program, but it also merged with Thunderbird School of Global Management, long known as the top international business school in the world (though it had struggled in recent years).

Additionally, Carey’s online MBA program is one of the nation’s top online schools, and the university continues to expand its online offerings. While we wouldn’t be surprised if the offer of free tuition doesn’t last more than a couple of years, we believe ASU’s Carey School is the up-and-coming business school to watch.

What do you think of the 2018 MBA rankings? Let us know in the comments below!

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

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

Deciding Between the SAT and ACT: Which Test is Right for You?

scottbloomdecisionsChoosing the right standardized test for you can make an enormous difference to your college application experience: working with subjects you’re more comfortable with and being tested on a skill set that better matches your own strengths, can greatly ease your study burden and boost your chances of a strong score.

The SAT and ACT are structurally and functionally similar, but their content differs in significant ways that can be used to a student’s advantage. Here are a few things to consider when choosing between the ACT and the SAT:

Similarities Between the SAT and ACT

Let’s start with what these two tests have in common. They take about the same amount of time to complete, and are equally popular test choices in the United States. They require both qualitative and quantitative skills, and each have four sections plus an optional essay. Colleges weigh the ACT sand SAT equally – you won’t be penalized for choosing either exam over the other, so many students choose to take both and submit whichever test they perform better on. All U.S. colleges accept scores from both tests.

Differences Between the SAT and ACT

The main difference between the SAT and the ACT is their content – choose the exam that tests your strongest skills. The SAT is more qualitatively oriented in that it has Reading, Writing, and Math sections, while the ACT is more quantitatively oriented in that it has English, Math, and Science sections. ACT English passages tend to be at an easier reading level than SAT Reading passages, but ACT Math typically contains more trigonometry questions than SAT Math.

The ACT also includes a science section, although ACT Science questions focus on a student’s ability to comprehend and evaluate given scientific information and hypotheses, rather than on his or her outside knowledge of scientific concepts. You won’t need to remember everything you learned in Biology, Chemistry, or Physics class for this exam, but you will need to know how to understand those concepts when they are explained to you using common scientific vocabulary words.

The Optional Essays

Both tests include an optional essay, but these take very different forms. The ACT essay asks you to evaluate and analyze a complex issue. You are given three perspectives on a worldly, relevant question – like the implications of automation for history – and asked to discuss your own perspective on the issue relative to at least one of the given perspectives. The ACT essay favors those with strong logic, debate, and discussion skills. Test-takers are also asked to use reasoning and outside examples to support their arguments, so a strong knowledge of history, literature, and/or current events can come in handy.

The SAT essay, on the other hand, tests comprehension of a source text, and is a good choice for those with strong reading comprehension, interpretation, and critical analysis skills. Test-takers are given a passage to read and asked to examine the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and stylistic or persuasive elements. Strong SAT essays typically include references to and explanations of literary concepts like allusion, rhetorical language, and anecdote, so a strong knowledge of English literary components and concepts is also useful.

How to Decide Whether to Take the SAT or ACT

The best way to determine which test is better for you is to take at least one official ACT practice test, and at least one official SAT practice test. (I’ll emphasize official – you want to ensure that your practice session is as representative of the real thing as possible, and a copycat practice test won’t achieve that.)

If you still can’t decide between the two exams, or if you take one and realize you might have done better on the other, recognize that there’s no penalty if you officially sit both the SAT and the ACT. The SAT and ACT are operated by different organizations, so reporting your SAT scores to colleges won’t automatically send your ACT scores to them too, and vice versa. If you take both tests, you can choose to report scores for just one exam – whichever one you do better on. (Keep in mind, though, that some colleges require you to submit all scores you’ve received from each test, so if you’ve officially sat three SAT’s, you’ll have to report all three scores, not just your best one.)

It’s best to devote your energy to just one test out of the two, but ultimately, you can’t really go wrong when choosing between the SAT and the ACT. Apart from the test fees and studying time spent, there is no cost to taking both exams. Play to your strengths by choosing the test with content that better fits your skills, but don’t worry about choosing wrong – you can always change your mind later on! The best option is to start your test prep early in your high school career, in order to give yourself time to explore both tests and to switch to the other one if you need to.

Still need help deciding whether to take the SAT or ACT (or both)? Check out Veritas Prep’s free SAT vs. ACT Comparison Tool to determine which exam is right for you. And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Courtney Tran, a Veritas Prep college admissions consultant and 99th percentile SAT and ACT instructor. Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

3.14 Reasons to Love Pi

Pie ChartEvery March 14, numerically expressed as 3/14, math nerds and test prep instructors celebrate the time-honored tradition of “Pi Day,” deriving plenty of happiness from the fact that the date looks like the number 3.14, the approximation of π. Pi (π) is, of course, the lynchpin value in all circle calculations. The area of a circle is π(r^2), and the circumference of a circle is 2πr or πd.

As you study for a major standardized test, you know that you’ll be working with circles at some point, so here are 3.14 reasons that you should learn to love the number π:

1) Pi should make you salivate.
On any standardized test question, if you see the value π, whether in the question itself of in the answer choices, that π tells you that you’re dealing with a circle. Some test questions disguise what they want you to do – you may have to draw in a triangle to find the diagonal of a square, for example – but circle problems cannot hide from you! π is a dead giveaway that you’re dealing with a circle, so like Pavlov’s Dog, when you see that signal, π, you should respond with a biological response and conjure up all your knowledge of circles immediately.

2) Pi can be easily cut into slices.
Whether you’re dealing with a section of the area of a circle or a section of the circumference (arc length), the fact that a circle is perfectly symmetrical makes the job of cutting that circle into slices an easy one. With arc length, all you end up doing is using the central angle to determine the proportion of that section (angle/360 = proportion of what you want), making it very easy to slice up a circle using π. With the area of a section, as long as the arms of that section are equal to the radius of the circle, you can do the exact same thing. Just like an apple pie or pizza pie, if you’re cutting into slices from the center of the circle, cutting that pie into slices is a relatively simple task.

3) You can take your pi to go.
You will almost never have to calculate the value of pi on a standardized test: almost always, the symbol π will appear in the answer choices (e.g. 5π, 7π, etc.), meaning that you can just carry π through your calculations and bring it with you to the answer choices. If, for example, you need to calculate the area of a circle with radius 3, you’ll plug the radius into your formula [π(3^2)] and just end up with 9π, which you’ll find in the answer choices. With most other symbols (x, y, r, etc.) you’ll need to do some work to turn them into numbers. Pi is great because you can take it to go.

3.14) The decimals in pi are just a sliver.
If you ever are asked to “calculate” pi (which typically means that the question is asking you to approximate a value, not to directly calculate it), you can use the fact that the .14 in 3.14 is a tiny sliver of a decimal. For example, if you had to estimate a value for 5π, 5 times 3 is clearly 15, but 5 times .14 is so small that it won’t require you to go all the way to 16. So if your answer choices were 15.7, 16.1, 16.4, etc., you could rely on the fact that the decimal .14 is so small that you can eliminate all the 16s.

Other irrational numbers like the square root of 2 and square root of 3 have decimal places more in the neighborhood of .5, so you will probably need to work a little harder to estimate how they’ll react when you multiply them even by relatively small numbers. But π’s decimals come in small slivers, allowing you to manage your calculations in bite size pieces.

So remember – there are 3.14 (and counting) reasons to love pi, and learning to love pi can help turn your test day into a piece of cake.

Are you getting ready to take the SAT, ACT, GMAT or GRE? Check out our website for a variety of helpful test prep resources. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

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

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomSometimes, 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.

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

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: Big Sean Says Your GMAT Score Will Bounce Back

Welcome back to Hip Hop Month in the GMAT Tip of the Week space, where naturally, we woke up in beast mode (with your author legitimately wishing he was bouncing back to D-town from LAX this weekend, but blog duty calls!).

If you have a car stereo or Pandora account, you’ve undoubtedly heard Big Sean talking about bouncing back this month. “Bounce Back” is a great anthem for anyone hitting a rough patch – at work, in a relationship, after a rough day for your brackets during next week’s NCAA tournament – but this isn’t a self-help, “it’s always darkest before dawn,” feel-good article. Big Sean has some direct insight into the GMAT scoring algorithm with Bounce Back, and if you pay attention, you can leverage Bounce Back (off the album “I Decided” – that’ll be important, too) to game-plan your test day strategy and increase your score.

So, what’s Big Sean’s big insight?

The GMAT scoring (and question delivery) algorithm is designed specifically so that you can “take an L” and bounce back. And if you understand that, you can budget your time and focus appropriately. The test is designed so that just about everybody misses multiple questions – the adaptive system serves you problems that should test your upper threshold of ability, and can also test your lower limit if you’re not careful.

What does that mean? Say you, as Big Sean would say, “take an L” (or a loss) on a question. That’s perfectly fine…everyone does it. The next question should be a bit easier, providing you with a chance to bounce back. The delivery system is designed to use the test’s current estimate of your ability to deliver you questions that will help it refine that estimate, meaning that it’s serving you questions that lie in a difficulty range within a few percentile points of where it thinks you’re scoring.

If you “take an L” on a problem that’s even a bit below your true ability, missing a question or two there is fine as long as it’s an outlier. No one question is a perfect predictor of ability, so any single missed question isn’t that big of a deal…if you bounce back and get another few questions right in and around that range, the system will continue to test your upper threshold of ability and give you chances to prove that the outlier was a fluke.

The problem comes when you don’t bounce back. This doesn’t mean that you have to get the next question right, but it does mean that you can’t afford big rough patches – a run of 3 out of 4 wrong or 4 out of 5 wrong, for example. At that point, the system’s estimate of you has to change (your occasional miss isn’t an outlier anymore) and while you can still bounce back, you now run the risk of running out of problems to prove yourself. As the test serves you questions closer to its new estimate of you, you’re not using the problems to “prove how good you are,” but instead having to spend a few problems proving you’re “not that bad, I promise!”

So, okay. Great advice – “don’t get a lot of problems wrong.” Where’s the real insight? It can be found in the lyrics to “Bounce Back”:

Everything I do is righteous
Betting on me is the right risk
Even in a ***** crisis…

During the test you have to manage your time and effort wisely, and that means looking at hard questions and determining whether betting on that question is the right risk. You will get questions wrong, but you also control how much you let any one question affect your ability to answer the others correctly. A single question can hurt your chances at the others if you:

  • Spend too much time on a problem that you weren’t going to get right, anyway
  • Let a problem get in your head and distract you from giving the next one your full attention and confidence

Most test-takers would be comfortable on section pacing if they had something like 3-5 fewer questions to answer, but when they’re faced with the full 37 Quant and 41 Verbal problems they feel the need to rush, and rushing leads to silly mistakes (or just blindly guessing on the last few problems). And when those silly mistakes pile up and become closer to the norm than to the outlier, that’s when your score is in trouble.

You can avoid that spiral by determining when a question is not the right risk! If you recognize in 30-40 seconds (or less) that you’re probably going to take an L, then take that L quickly (put in a guess and move on) and bank the time so that you can guarantee you’ll bounce back. You know you’re taking at least 5 Ls on each section (for most test-takers, even in the 700s that number is probably closer to 10) so let yourself be comfortable with choosing to take 3-4 Ls consciously, and strategically bank the time to ensure that you can thoroughly get right the problems that you know you should get right.

Guessing on the GMAT doesn’t have to be a panic move – when you know that the name of the game is giving yourself the time and patience to bounce back, a guess can summon Big Sean’s album title, “I Decided,” as opposed to “I screwed up.” (And if you need proof that even statistics PhDs who wrote the GMAT scoring algorithm need some coaching with regard to taking the L and bouncing back, watch the last ~90 seconds of this video.)

So, what action items can you take to maximize your opportunity to bounce back?

Right now: pay attention to the concepts, question types, and common problem setups that you tend to waste time on and get wrong. Have a plan in mind for test day that “if it’s this type of problem and I don’t see a path to the finish line quickly, I’m better off taking the L and making sure I bounce back on the next one.”

Also, as you review those types of problems in your homework and practice tests, look for techniques you can use to guess intelligently. For many, combinatorics with restrictions is one of those categories for which they often cannot see a path to a correct answer. Those problems are easy to guess on, however! Often you can eliminate a choice or two by looking at the number of possibilities that would exist without the restriction (e.g. if Remy and Nicki would just patch up their beef and stand next to each other, there would be 120 ways to arrange the photo, but since they won’t the number has to be less than 120…). And you can also use that total to ask yourself, “Does the restriction take away a lot of possibilities or just a few?” and get a better estimate of the remaining choices.

On test day: Give yourself 3-4 “I Decided” guesses and don’t feel bad about them. If your experience tells you that betting your time and energy on a question is not the right risk, take the L and use the extra time to make sure you bounce back.

The GMAT, like life, guarantees that you’ll get knocked down a few times, but what you can control is how you respond. Accept the fact that you’re going to take your fair share of Ls, but if you’re a real one you know how to bounce back.

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

By Brian Galvin.

Prepping for Business School Exams

Letter of RecommendationUndergraduate students who plan to apply to business school have several requirements to fulfill. One of those requirements is to take a business school admissions test. The Graduate Management Admissions Test, or the GMAT, is one test for business school. The Graduate Record Examination, or the GRE, is another type of test that students take when they want to apply to business school.

Test questions are similar on both of these exams. However, there are some business schools that want students to take the GMAT, while others accept either GMAT or GRE scores. It’s a wise idea for a student to check the specific admissions requirements of the business schools to which they plan to apply.

Our knowledgeable online tutors at Veritas Prep offer students valuable tips as they prepare for the GRE, the GMAT, or both. We hire tutors who have achieved a high score on these tests so students can learn from individuals with valuable practical experience. Take a closer look at some pertinent details regarding each of these business school exams.

The GMAT
The GMAT is one of the tests that students can take to get into business school. Test questions challenge a student’s skills in the areas of Verbal, Quantitative, and Integrated Reasoning. There is also an Analytical Writing Assessment.

The Verbal section of this business school exam measures students’ reading comprehension skills as well as their reasoning skills and ability to spot grammatical errors in a sentence. Alternatively, the Quantitative section of the GMAT gauges a student’s math skills. The math questions on this test to get into business school measure a student’s skills with fractions, algebra, geometry, percentages, and basic addition and subtraction. Fortunately, many students are familiar with these math skills from their years in high school. But there are some students who need a bit of review to feel more confident about the quantitative section.

The section on integrated reasoning tests a student’s ability to evaluate data offered in a variety of formats, such as graphs, tables and charts. The analytical writing section asks students to provide a critique of an argument. Students must write in a clear, succinct manner and offer specific examples to support their reasoning.

The GRE
The GRE is another test that students can take when they want to apply to business school. Exam questions on this test are similar to those on the GMAT. Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing are the three sections of this test. Verbal Reasoning questions test a student’s skills at analyzing a piece of writing and recognizing the important relationships contained in it. Students must also be able to recognize and define various vocabulary words.

Geometry, data analysis, basic math, and algebra are all topics in the Quantitative section of the GRE. The Analytical Writing section requires students to create two essays – one of the essays asks students to analyze an argument, while the other asks them to analyze an issue. Students have the opportunity here to prove they can construct organized essays with plenty of examples to support their point of view.

The Basic Differences Between These Two Exams
After looking at the particulars of the GMAT and the GRE, a student may wonder which business school entrance exam to take. Though there are many similarities between the two tests, there are also some differences. For one, the fee to take the GMAT is $250, while the fee for the GRE is $195.

The GMAT has an Integrated Reasoning section, while the GRE does not. The GRE, however, asks students to write two essays, while the GMAT only requires students to write one. While these tests differ a little in format, they both serve to reveal a student’s skills in various subjects.

How to Choose Which Exam to Take
Students must find out which test scores are acceptable to the schools they are applying to. If a school accepts the GMAT and the GRE, taking practice tests is an excellent way for a student to determine which one they feel more comfortable with. Regardless of which test an applicant chooses, our professional tutors at Veritas Prep are available to help students prep for every section! Students who take our test preparation courses learn strategies that boost their confidence, leading to their best test performance.

At Veritas Prep, we have the knowledge and resources to guide students toward success on these tests. Contact our offices today and give us the opportunity to help you fulfill your dreams of becoming a business school student!

SAT Subject Tests: Which Exams You Should Take and When to Take Them

SATA majority of colleges require or recommend taking at least two SAT Subject Tests, but they do not usually advise applicants as to which tests they should take. Students are then left to decide when to take their Subject Tests and how to interpret varying institution-specific guidelines about which subjects to choose and how scores will be used.

For students who don’t have a firm idea of where they want to apply, the best course of action is to take two Subject Tests that highlight their academic strengths. Most students will choose subjects that have some relation to their intended majors, but as there are so many more majors than there are Subject Tests so these matches do not need to be exact.

For example, an applicant planning on pursuing an environmental science major might like to take Subject Tests in Math II and Biology. Another student applying to the same program might choose instead to take subject tests in Chemistry and American History. Either would be perfectly reasonable choices. If a college has a more specific requirement, it will be clearly stated on their website, but for the majority of students, two tests in areas of strength will make for the best possible application for the widest range of colleges.

That being said, here are some points to consider about particular cases where it could pay to think more carefully about which SAT Subject Tests to choose:

Pay Attention to Specific Program Requirements
Some colleges and programs that take freshman applications will impose their own SAT Subject Test requirements. This practice is most widespread in STEM programs. For example, MIT requires applicants to take one Subject Test in math (Level 1 or Level 2) and one in science (Biology, Chemistry, or Physics). UCLA’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences requires test scores from the Math Level 2 exam and one science subject exam.

The engineering programs at Berkeley and San Diego have the same requirement that UCLA does, even though there are no Subject Test requirements at all for students in other majors. With this in mind, if you know you will be applying to a specific school, pay attention to their unique SAT Subject Test requirements (if they have any) and adhere to them.

Consider Foreign Language Proficiency and Placement
The College Board offers SAT Subject Tests in nine different languages. For some languages, you have a choice between a written test and a test with a listening component. Other language tests are only available in one format or the other. Many colleges accept SAT language exams for placement or credit in language courses, but don’t rush out to take one of these tests for that reason alone – especially if you’re not as well prepared as you could be. If you’re concerned about missing out on credit, wait until you make your college decision and then take the exam during the spring of your Senior year (only if you know it will benefit you).

Reasons to Take More Than 2 SAT Subject Tests
One good reason to add a 3rd SAT Subject Test is if you want to take one in a language of which you are a heritage speaker. In that case, you may want to make the Subject Test for that language your third exam. This way, you can show how proficient you are in a second language while still taking two other exams in subjects that you have studied in an academic setting.

Another reason to take an additional Subject Test is to fulfill less common school-specific requirements. For example, Georgetown is one of few schools to still recommend three SAT Subject Tests. At NYU, which has a test-flexibly policy, the admissions office will actually accept three Subject Tests in lieu of the regular SAT. If you plan to apply to schools like Georgetown or NYU, consider taking three SAT Subject Tests before submitting your applications.

Reasons to Skip the SAT Subject Tests
Some colleges have made SAT Subject Tests optional, or have even stopped considering them all together. For instance, At Columbia, subject tests are accepted but not required, and at the University of Chicago, they state,”SAT II’s are truly optional, and not sending us Subject Tests will not hurt your application.” If you are sure that your college application list does not include schools where Subject Tests are required, it’s safe to trust that “optional” really means “optional,” and skip the tests.

When to Take SAT Subject Tests
If you are applying to one or more schools where SAT Subject Tests are strongly recommended or required, the next decision that you must make is when to take them.

Don’t be afraid to take SAT Subject Tests early on in your high school career. If your school offers AP World History in the 10th grade and you know that you’ll be interested in taking the test for that subject, go ahead and start fulfilling your Subject Test requirements early. On the other hand, if you know that your school offers two years of a single subject (for example, 9th grade Chemistry and 11th grade AP Chemistry), wait to take your Subject Test for that subject at the end of the second year.

Since history and science Subject Tests correspond closely with year-long high school courses, it is best to take them immediately after you’ve completed the relevant course. The math and literature exams, however, draw on skills that are developed over a period of years, and so these do not necessarily need to be taken in conjunction with specific classes. If you’re taking literature or math, find a time around your Junior year when your schedule will allow you the time to study and work with practice tests.

Finally, if you’re taking a language exam, it is advisable to wait until the end of Junior year or the beginning of Senior year to take the test. This way, you’ll allow yourself the maximum amount of time to practice the language before the exam.

SAT Subject Tests are necessary for many students, but each individual has a lot of flexibility in deciding which ones to take and when to take them. And if you’re still uncertain about what tests to choose or how to prepare, consider getting in touch with an experienced tutor or admissions consultant here at Veritas Prep.

Do you need help navigating the college application process and determining which tests to take for the schools you are applying to? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique situation! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Anne Mathews is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in Los Angeles. 

The Best Ways to Study and Practice Vocabulary for the GRE Exam

Test PrepThe Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, contains three sections. One of those sections tests a student’s verbal reasoning skills. Within the Verbal Reasoning section, students encounter questions that ask them to identify antonyms and synonyms. Also, they must select the appropriate word or words to complete various sentences. In short, many of the questions in this section test a student’s vocabulary skills.

Fortunately, there are several ways that students can practice GRE vocab words as they prep for this important test:

Review Lists of GRE Vocabulary Words
There are many lists that reveal groups of words that are frequently seen on the GRE. Vocabulary practice can take the form of learning these high frequency words along with their definitions. It’s a good idea for students to divide a vocabulary list into groups of ten words. Learning ten words every week is a lot more effective than trying to absorb all of the words on a list in a short period of time.

The professional instructors at Veritas Prep are experts at teaching students how to learn and remember vocabulary words that may appear on the GRE. In addition, we provide strategies that narrow down and simplify the possible answers making a question in the verbal reasoning section easier for a student to tackle.

Get GRE Vocab Prep with Practice Tests
Taking a practice GRE is another way of learning vocabulary words that may appear on the actual test. Along with introducing students to the subject matter in the verbal reasoning section, they can become familiar with the types of answer options offered on the exam. A student may use mnemonic techniques to remember words on a practice test. For instance, a student who sees the word dissonance can remember it by looking at its prefix, “dis”. In Latin, “dis” means to take apart and the word “sonance” means sound. These clues can remind a student that the word dissonance means inharmonious sound. A student may not see the exact same words on the actual test, but the exam may include words that are similar to the ones on a practice test.

Use GRE Vocabulary on Assignments
The best way to study vocabulary words for the GRE is to use them in everyday life. For instance, a student who is a senior in an undergraduate program can use some GRE vocabulary words on essays and other writing assignments. Or, students who write personal blogs each day can use some newly learned vocabulary words in their articles. A student is more likely to remember a vocabulary word and its meaning if he or she uses it in context. Using these vocabulary words often keeps them fresh in a student’s memory.

Get GRE Vocab Practice with Flashcards
Making flashcards takes a little time, but they are effective study tools when learning unfamiliar vocabulary words. Create flashcards by writing a word on one side of a card and its definition on the other side. Some students prefer to create flashcards via their computer. Flashcards provide students with a convenient way to study GRE vocabulary. Practice with the flashcards while on a break at work or between classes at school.

It’s a good idea for students to quiz themselves using just ten flashcards at a time. Studying ten flashcards at a time is one way to prevent a student from feeling overwhelmed. Students may also want to enlist the help of a roommate or friend when learning new vocabulary words. Two friends who plan to take the GRE can quiz one another with flashcards.

Read Newspaper and Magazine Articles
Many of the words used in newspaper and magazine articles are the same ones found on the GRE. Vocab practice can be as easy as going online each morning to read several articles from a news magazine. When students encounter a word they learned from a GRE vocabulary list, they are able to see it used in context. This further solidifies the meaning of the word in a student’s mind.

Finally, students who want assistance expanding their vocabulary in preparation for the test can contact us regarding GRE prep courses. Our Frequently Asked Questions section is also helpful to students who want to know more about Veritas Prep’s services. We provide students with excellent learning resources and study tips that can help them to master questions on the Verbal Reasoning section as well as the rest of the GRE.

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

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: When Can You Divide by a Variable?

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomWe have often come across test takers confused about division by a variable. When is it allowed, when is it not allowed? Why is it allowed in some cases and not in others? What are the constraints we need to look out for?

For example:

Is division by x allowed here: x^2 = 10x?
Is division by x allowed here: y = 4x?
Is division by x allowed here: x^2 < 4x?

Let’s take a detailed look at all these questions today.

The basic guidelines:

  1. Division by 0 is not allowed, hence you cannot divide by a variable until and unless we know that it cannot be 0.
  2. In the case of an inequality, when you divide by a negative number, the sign of the inequality flips. So we cannot divide by a variable until and unless we know that it cannot be 0 AND whether it is positive or negative.

Let’s look at the three questions given above and try to solve them using these guidelines:

Is division by x allowed here: x^2 = 10x?

The first thing to find out here is whether or not x can equal 0.

Case 1: If no other information has been given, then x can be 0 and we cannot divide by it. This is how we proceed in that case:

x^2 – 10x = 0
x(x – 10) = 0
x = 0 or 10

Case 2: If the question stem tells us that x is not 0, then we can divide by x.

x^2/x = 10x/x
x = 10

Obviously, we don’t get the second solution (x = 0) in this case, as we already know that x cannot be 0. Now let’s look at the second problem:

Is division by x allowed here: y = 4x?

Again, this is an equation and we need to know whether or not x can equal 0.

Case 1: If x can be 0, you cannot divide by it. In this case, x = 0 and y = 0 is one of the infinite possible solutions.

Case 2: If the question stem states that x cannot be 0, then we can do the following:

y/x = 4

Now let’s look at the final question:

Is division by x allowed here: x^2 > -4x?

Here, we have an inequality. Before deciding whether we can divide by x or not, we need to know not only whether x can be equal to 0, but also whether x is positive or negative.

Case 1: If we know nothing about the possible values that x can take, then this is how we proceed:

x^2 + 4x > 0
x(x + 4) > 0

Now we can use the method discussed in the first problem to arrive at the range of x.

x > 0 or x < -4

Case 2: If we know that x is positive, then we can proceed like this:

x^2/x > -4x/x
x > -4

Since we are given that x is positive, we know that that x > 0 (looking at the two options above).

Case 3: If we know that x is negative, then this is how we will proceed:

x^2/x < -4x/x (we flip the sign of the inequality because we divide by x, which is negative)
x < -4

The results obtained are logical, right? When x can be anywhere on the number line, we get the range as x > 0 or x < -4.

If x has to be positive, the range is x > 0.
If x has to be negative, the range is x < -4.

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

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: Evolving Your GMAT Quant Score with Help from The Evolution Of Rap

GMAT Tip of the WeekIf it’s March, it must be Hip Hop Month at the GMAT Tip of the Week space, where this year we’ve been transfixed by Vox’s video on the evolution of rhyme schemes in the rap world.

The video below (which is absolutely worth a watch during a designated study break) explores the way that rap has evolved from simple rhyme schemes (yada yada yada Bat, yada yada yada Hat, yada yada yada Rat, yada yada yada Cat…) to the more complex “wait did he just say what I thought he said?” inside-out rhyme schemes that make you rewind an Eminem or Kendrick Lamar track because your ears must be playing tricks on you.

And if you don’t have the study break time right now, we’ll summarize. While a standard rhyme might have a one-syllable rhyme at the end of each bar (do you like green eggs and HAM, yes I like them Sam I AM), rappers have continued to evolve to the point where nowadays each bar can contain multiple rhyme schemes. Consider Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”:

Snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity
Oh there goes Rabbit he choked, he’s so mad but he won’t
Give up that easy, nope, he won’t have it he knows
His whole back’s to these ropes, it don’t matter he’s dope
He knows that but he’s broke, he’s so stagnant he knows…

Where “gravity,” “Rabbit, he,” “mad but he,” “that easy,” “have it he,” “back’s to these,” “matter he’s,” “that but he’s,” and “stagnant, he” all rhyme with one another, the list of goes/goes/choked/so/won’t/knows/whole/ropes/don’t/dope… keeps that hard “O” sound rhyming consistently throughout, too. And that was 15 years ago…since them, Eminem, Kendrick, and others have continued to build elaborate rhyme schemes that reward those listeners who don’t just listen for the simple rhyme at the end of each bar, but pick up the subtle rhyme flows that sometimes don’t come back until a few lines later.

So what does this have to do with your GMAT score?

One of the most common study mistakes that test-takers make is that they study skills as individual, standalone entities, and don’t look for the subtle ways that the GMAT testmaker can layer in those sophisticated Andre-3000-style combinations. Consider an example of an important GMAT skill, the “Difference of Squares” rule that (x + y)(x – y) = x^2 – y^2. A standard (think early 1980s Sugarhill Gang or Grandmaster Flash) GMAT question might test it in a relatively “obvious” way:

What is the value of (x + y)?

(1) x^2 – y^2 = 0
(2) x does not equal y

Here if you factor Statement 1 you’ll get (x + y)(x – y) = 0, and then Statement 2 tells you that it’s not (x – y) that equals zero, so it must be x + y. This Data Sufficiency answer is C, and the test is essentially just rewarding you for knowing the Difference of Squares.

The GMAT it cares
’bout the Difference of Squares
When there’s squares and subtraction
Put this rule into action

A slightly more sophisticated question (think late 1980s/early 1990s Rob Bass or Run DMC) won’t so obviously show you the Difference of Squares. It might “hide” that behind a square that few people tend to see as a square, the number 1:

If y = 2^(16) – 1, the greatest prime factor of y is:

(A) Less than 6
(B) Between 6 and 10
(C) Between 10 and 14
(D) Between 14 and 18
(E) Greater than 18

Here, many people don’t recognize 1 as a perfect square, so they don’t see that the setup is 2^(16) – 1^(2), which can be factored as:

(2^8 + 1)(2^8 – 1)

And that 2^8 – 1 can be factored again, since 1 remains 1^2:

(2^8 + 1)(2^4 + 1)(2^4 – 1)

And that ultimately you could do it again with 2^4 – 1 if you wanted, but you should know that 2^4 is 16 so you can now get to work on smaller numbers. 2^8 is 256 and 2^4 is 16, so you have:

257 * 17 * 15

And what really happens now is that you have to factor out 257 to see if you can break it into anything smaller than 17 as a factor (since, if not, you can select “greater than 18”). Since you can’t, you know that 257 must have a prime factor greater than 18 (it turns out that it’s prime) and correctly select E.

The lesson here? This problem directly tests the Difference of Squares (you don’t want to try to calculate 2^16, then subtract 1, then try to factor out that massive number) but it does so more subtly, layering it inside the obvious “prime factor” problem like a rapper might embed a secondary rhyme scheme in the middle of each bar.

But in really hard problems, the testmaker goes full-on Greatest of All Time rapper, testing several things at the same time and rewarding only the really astute for recognizing the game being played. Consider:

The size of a television screen is given as the length of the screen’s diagonal. If the screens were flat, then the area of a square 21-inch screen would be how many square inches greater than the area of a square 19-inch screen?

(A) 2
(B) 4
(C) 16
(D) 38
(E) 40

Now here you KNOW you’re dealing with a geometry problem, and it also looks like a word problem given the television backstory. As you start calculating, you’ll know that you have to take the diagonal of each square TV and use that to determine the length of each side, using the 45-45-90 triangle ratio, where the diagonal = x√2. So the length of a side of the smaller TV is 19/√2 and the length of a side of the larger TV is 21/√2.

Then you have to calculate the area, which is the side squared, so the area of the smaller TV is (19/√2)^2 and the area of the larger TV is (21/√2)^2. This is starting to look messy (Who knows the squares for 21 and 19 offhand? And radicals in denominators never look fun…) UNTIL you realize that you have to subtract the two areas. Which means that your calculation is:

(21/√2)^2 – (19/√2)^2

This fits perfectly in the Difference of Squares formula, meaning that you can express x^2 – y^2 as (x + y)(x – y). Doing that, you have:

[(21 + 19)/√2][(21-19)/√2]

Which is really convenient because the math in the numerators is easy and leaves you with:

(40/√2) * (2/√2)

And when you multiply them, the √2 terms in the denominators square out to 2, which factors with the 2 in the numerator of the right-side fraction, and everything simplifies to 40. And then, in classic “oh this guy’s effing GOOD” hip-hop style (like in the Eminem lyric “you’re witnessing a massacre like you’re watching a church gathering take place” and you realize that he’s using “massacre” and “mass occur” – the church gathering taking place – simultaneously), you realize that you should have seen it coming all along. Because when you subtract the area of one square minus the area of another square you’re LITERALLY taking the DIFFERENCE of two SQUARES.

So what’s the point?

Too often people study for the GMAT like they’d listen to 1980s rap. They expect the Difference of Squares to pair nicely at the end of an Algebra-with-Exponents bar, and the Isosceles Right Triangle formula to pair nicely with a Triangle question. They learn skills in distinct silos, memorize their flashcards in nice, tidy sets, and then go into the test and realize that they’re up against an exam that looks a lot more like a 2017 mixtape with layers of rhyme schemes and motives.

You need to be prepared to use skills where they don’t seem to obviously belong, to jot down and rearrange your scratchwork, label your unknowns, etc., looking for how you might reposition the math you’re given to help you bring in a skill or concept that you’ve used countless times, just in totally different contexts. The GMAT testmaker has a much more sophisticated flow than the one you’re likely studying for, so pay attention to that nuance when you study and you’ll have a much better chance of keeping your score 800.

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

By Brian Galvin.

Take the 2017 MBA Applicant Survey and Win $500!

AIGACThe Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) has just launched its annual MBA applicant survey. By filling it out you’ll be entered for a chance to win $500!

Take the survey here.

Since 2009, AIGAC has regularly conducted a large survey to study trends among business school applicants. The results are shared with AIGAC member consultants and with MBA programs to help them better anticipate the needs of those who will soon apply to business school. Over the past few years, there have even been changes made to some business schools’ applications as a result of AIGAC survey findings, including more streamlined letters of recommendation at some MBA programs!

This online survey should take just a few minutes to complete. We would love to receive as many responses as possible before the survey closes in early April – and we would like to see one of our readers win the $500 cash prize!

Simply click here to begin the survey.

More about the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants: AIGAC promotes high ethical standards and professional development among graduate admissions consultants, increases public understanding of graduate admissions consulting, and enhances channels of communication with complementary organizations. The annual MBA Applicant Survey is just one way in which AIGAC serves the admissions and admissions consulting communities.

Thanks in advance for your participation, and good luck with the drawing!

The Pros and Cons of Skipping the ACT Essay-Writing Section

SAT WorryAs you read about the different sections on the ACT, you’ll notice that the essay (or Writing section) is optional. So should you do the ACT Writing section or opt out of it?

The best way to answer this question is to check out both the pros and cons of signing up for the ACT without the essay:

Pros of Skipping the ACT Essay

Saving Time
One of the advantages of signing up for the ACT without the essay is you can reduce the amount of time you spend preparing for the exam. Preparation for the ACT Writing section means learning the scoring rubric to find out the elements necessary to achieve a high score. Also, you must spend time practicing your essay-writing skills to ensure that you’re ready to create an impressive essay. Skipping the ACT essay means you have more study time to dedicate to the other sections on the test. Plus, taking the ACT without writing time means your total testing period is shortened by 40 minutes.

Saving Money
The official website for the ACT displays one fee for taking the test with the Writing section and another for taking the ACT without the essay, so if you decide to skip the essay, you can save a little money on your testing fees. This can be important, especially if you have a tight budget for standardized tests taken in your junior and senior year in high school.

Sticking With Your Strengths
Perhaps essay-writing is not one of your strengths – when you take the ACT without the Writing section, time can be spent studying for the other sections of the test. You can focus on the Math, Reading, Science, and English sections to achieve scores that will impress college admissions officials. However, if you want to improve your essay-writing skills, our capable instructors can help you to achieve that goal. We can teach you strategies for how to set up a logical, well-organized essay and provide you with guided practice to help make your essay the best it can be.

Cons of Skipping the ACT Essay

Lacking a Requirement?
One of the cons of taking the ACT without the essay is that you may want to apply to colleges that list a score for the Writing section as an admissions requirement. In order to apply to those colleges, you would have to go back and take the entire test again to get an essay score. Checking to see if the ACT essay is a requirement for the colleges you plan to apply to is a wise idea. But keep in mind that you may want to add a college to your list later or even transfer to another school that requires an ACT essay score.

Skipping the Opportunity to Make an Impression
Another con of skipping the essay section on the ACT is that you’ll miss out on an opportunity to show off your writing skills. Earning a high score on the essay is sure to capture the attention of college admissions officials. If writing is one of your strengths, why not take the time to highlight that talent to colleges?

Missing Out on an Intro to College-Level Work
If you skip the ACT essay, you miss out on the chance to become familiar with college-level work. The task of writing this essay is similar to what you’ll be doing in your English classes as a college freshman. You’ll be writing a lot of papers for classes once you start working toward a degree, so why not give yourself the opportunity to dip your toe into the type of academic work you’ll be doing as a college student?

Whether you decide to take the ACT with or without the essay, we are here to help you prep for the test. You may want to start by trying a free ACT trial class taught by one of our professional, 99th percentile instructors. This will give you an idea of all that we have to offer you at Veritas Prep. Sign up for our test prep services and you have the choice of online tutoring, in-person courses, or On Demand instruction. At Veritas Prep, we make it easy for you to learn what you need to know to ace the ACT!

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: When a Little Information is Enough to Solve a GMAT Problem

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomWe have reviewed what standard deviation is in a past post. We know what data is necessary to calculate the standard deviation of a set, but in some cases, we could actually do with a lot less information than the average test-taker may think they need.

Let’s explore this idea through an example GMAT data sufficiency question:

What is the standard deviation of a set of numbers whose mean is 20?

Statement 1: The absolute value of the difference of each number in the set from the mean is equal.
Statement 2: The sum of the squares of the differences from the mean is greater than 100.

We need to determine whether the information we have been given is sufficient to get us the exact value of the standard deviation of a particular set of numbers. To find the standard deviation of a set, we need to know the deviation of each term from the mean so that we can square those deviations, sum the squares, divide them by the number of terms, and then find the square root.

Essentially, to find the standard deviation we either need to know each element of the set, or we need to know the deviation of each element from the mean (which will also give us the number of terms), or we need to know the sum of the square of deviations and the number of terms in the set.

The question stem here tells us that the mean of the set is 20. We have no other information about any of the actual elements of the set or the number of elements. With this in mind, let’s examine each of the statements:

Statement 1: The absolute value of the difference of each number in the set from the mean is equal.

With this statement, we don’t actually know what the absolute value of the difference is. We also don’t know how many elements there are. The set could be something like:

19, 21 (each term is exactly 1 away from the mean 20)
or
18, 18, 22, 22 (each term is exactly 2 away from the mean 20)
etc.

The standard deviation in each case will be different. We don’t know the elements of the set and we don’t know the number of elements in the set. Because of this, there is no way for us to know the value of the standard deviation – this statement alone is not sufficient.

Statement 2: The sum of the squares of the differences from the mean is greater than 100.

“Greater than 100” encompasses a large range of numbers – it could be any value larger than 100. Again, we cannot find the exact standard deviation of the set, so this statement is also not sufficient alone.

Using both statements together, we still do not have any idea of what the elements of the set are or what the sum of the squares of the differences from the mean is. We also still don’t know the number of elements. Hence, both statements together are not sufficient, so the answer is E.

Now, let us add just one more piece of information to the problem in this similar question:

What is the standard deviation of a set of 7 numbers whose mean is 20?

Statement 1: The absolute value of the difference of each number in the set from the mean is equal.
Statement 2: The sum of the squares of the differences from the mean is greater than 100.

What would you expect the answer to be? Still E, right? The sum of the deviations are still unknown and the exact elements of the set are still unknown – all we know is the number of elements. Actually, this information is already too much. All we need to know is that the number of elements is odd and suddenly we can find the standard deviation.

Here is why:

Statement 1 is quite tricky.

If we have an odd number of elements, in which case can the absolute values of the differences of each number in the set from the mean be equal?

Think about it – the mean of the set is 20. What could a possible set look like such that the mean is 20 and the absolute values of the differences of each number in the set from the mean are equal. Try to think of such a set with just 3 elements. Can you come up with one?

19, 19, 21? No, the mean is not 20

19, 20, 21? No, the absolute value of the difference of each number in the set from the mean is not equal. 19 is 1 away from mean but 20 is 0 away from mean.

Note that in this case, the only possible set that could fit the given criteria is one consisting of just an odd number of 20s (all elements in this set must be 20). Only then can each number be equidistant from the mean, i.e. each number would be 0 away from mean. If the numbers of the set all have equal elements, then obviously the standard deviation of the set is 0. It doesn’t matter how many elements it has; it doesn’t matter what the mean is! In this case, Statement 1 alone is sufficient so the answer would be A.

Takeaway:
If a set has an even number of distinct terms, the absolute values of the distances of each term from the mean could be equal. But if a set has an odd number of terms and the absolute values of the distances of each term from the mean are equal, all the terms in the set must be the same and will be equal to the mean.

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

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!

College Advice for Students Struggling With ADD, ADHD and Other Learning Disabilities

Macalester CollegeStarting college courses brings with it a collection of new challenges for every student. Students with ADD or ADHD have a unique set of challenges as they settle into life at college.

Fortunately, there are steps these students can take to achieve success and earn a degree. Learn some helpful tips for college students who deal with ADD or ADHD:

Take Advantage of Academic Support Services
The best colleges for students with learning disabilities are the ones that provide plenty of academic support. Some students need assistance with tackling the work in all of their courses, while others need limited academic support for a learning disability. A student with ADD or ADHD must take it upon themselves to inquire about these services and use them whenever needed.

Academic support comes in many forms depending on the resources of a college. Some schools offer students one-on-one tutoring services, while others offer group tutoring sessions. Supplemental instruction is another example of support offered in colleges for students with ADHD. The tutor offering supplemental instruction reviews material taught in a class to make sure that the student has absorbed all of the important points in a lecture. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of adjusting the way course material is delivered.

Some colleges also offer courses in study skills for ADHD students. Students with learning disabilities get to practice study strategies and learn how to take notes in an effective way. The best colleges for students with learning disabilities have the tools to test students who suspect that they have ADD or ADHD. If a student does have ADD or ADHD, the college takes steps to provide the person with the academic support they need to be successful.

Record Lectures
College students with ADD or ADHD sometimes find it helpful to record lectures. This allows them to go over confusing points and review various parts of the lecture at their leisure. They don’t feel as much pressure to take constant notes because they know they can go back and revisit the material. Some colleges, for students with ADHD, automatically allow students to record lectures, while others require students to seek the permission from each instructor. It’s a good idea for students with learning disabilities to let their instructors know the situation so they can contribute to the student’s success.

Use Technological Devices to Stay on Schedule
Today, students with or without a learning disability can use the alarm on their phone to keep them on schedule. For instance, a student with ADD or ADHD may set the alarm on their phone to let them know when it’s time to walk to the library to meet for a study group. Another student may use their phone to let them know they should start off to their first class of the day.

Some students with learning disabilities keep a calendar in their phone that they can refer to at any time to find dates for exams, projects, and meetings. Students may even find it helpful to send themselves reminder texts or emails regarding quizzes or tests.

Use Non-Technological Devices to Stay on Schedule
The individuals who offer academic support at colleges for ADHD students may suggest that students use a large desk calendar to keep them on schedule. For example, a student could highlight upcoming test days for various classes or start a countdown of the days before a big project is due. A desk calendar is something that a student would look at every day. Plus, students can make notes on the calendar to remind them of their progress on various assignments.

They can also purchase a cabinet with a system of drawers so they can separate the notes and other materials for each course. Often, a simple organizational system can assist students with learning disabilities in staying on schedule with all of their coursework.

Our professional tutors at Veritas Prep instruct students who have varying levels of ability. We prep students for standardized tests including the SAT. Our online SAT tutors scored in the 99th percentile on the exam, so students benefit from working with instructors who have hands-on knowledge of the SAT. We also assist students with college admissions by helping them with college essays, filling out applications, evaluating extracurricular activities, and more! Contact Veritas Prep today and let us know how we can help.

Do you need more help applying to college? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

All About Business School Interviews: Questions and Much More

InterviewThe process of applying to business school involves several steps. Filling out an admissions application, writing an essay, and submitting GMAT or GRE scores are just a few of those steps. Another important step is the interview. An interview allows business school admissions officials to get a look at the student behind the application. It also gives a student the chance to ask the admissions officials a few questions.

At Veritas Prep, our knowledgeable consultants help students prepare their admissions application, create a convincing essay, and organize all of the documents and deadlines involved in applying to business school. We know what business schools are looking for, and we share that valuable information with our students. Consider some typical questions asked of business school applicants, and learn some other helpful tips for students getting ready for an interview:

Typical Questions Asked During Business School Interviews
For students who want to study business, interview questions can range from the academic to the personal. Generally, the official conducting the interview starts by asking a student why they want to attend that school. The interviewer is looking for specific answers to this question. For instance, a student may bring up certain internship opportunities available due to the school’s longtime relationship with a variety of companies. Or a student may mention the school’s average class size of just 30 students. These answers show that the candidate is familiar with what the school has to offer.

Another typical question asked in business school interviews concerns a student’s strengths and weaknesses. This question reveals the character, motivation, and work ethic of a student. The answer helps to reveal a student’s suitability for the study program. It’s a good idea for a student to mention what they are doing to improve in any weak areas.

Generally, students are asked about their career plans and how a degree from business school will help them in the pursuit of a particular profession. Students will also be asked about their academic accomplishments and their leadership skills. All of these answers and others help an interviewer to envision the candidate as a student in the business school.

How to Prep for the Interview
One of the best ways to prepare for interview questions is to review a school’s website. Most school websites include information about class size and faculty member qualifications. Also, there are statistics on the number of students who find jobs after graduation. This is an efficient way to find specific facts.

Students should practice answering potential questions with a friend or family member. The person playing the interviewer can offer helpful suggestions on how the student can improve upon certain answers. Plus, students can use this opportunity to come up with questions for the interviewer about the school and its courses. Our consultants at Veritas Prep have the skills and experience to assist students as they prep for their business school interview. Our online experts have inside knowledge about the admissions process.

What to Bring to the Interview
Most of the time, a business school has a copy of a student’s résumé at the interview, but it’s a good idea for students to bring a few extra copies of their résumé with them too, since there might be additional officials in the interview room. Students may also want to bring a copy of their GMAT or GRE test scores as well as a copy of their latest transcript. A student may not need to take any of these documents out of their folder, but it’s a good idea to have them on hand just in case.

What to Wear to the Interview
Dressing in an appropriate way plays a part in a student’s success in an interview at a school of business. Interview questions and answers are the most important elements of an interview, but a student must also make a good visual impression. It’s best for a student to wear conservative clothes and have a well-groomed appearance. A student doesn’t have to invest in designer clothes to make a positive impression on an interviewer – just look neat and professional.

Our MBA consultants at Veritas Prep guide students through the process of applying to business school. We have the resources to prepare students for the GMAT, advise them on their admissions application, and offer strategies for success in business school interviews. Call or email Veritas Prep today and let us partner with you on the path toward an advanced degree in business.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

The SAT for International Students: What You Need to Know

Passport Number 2How do you register for the SAT? For international students, the registration process is a little different than it is for students living in the United States. But don’t worry: if you’re an international student, there is help available if you need assistance with any part of the SAT registration process.

Let’s take a look at this process step by step:

Registering for the Test
The SAT is given six times a year in countries throughout the world. While there are some requirements that are in place for all students taking the SAT, there are additional ones for international students. You can find these requirements organized by country on the College Board’s official website. Remember that international students don’t have the option of late registration. This makes it all the more important to consult the list of test registration deadlines for international students. Listed alongside the test registration deadlines are the deadlines for changes made in your registration.

What If I Need Help With Registration?
If you’d like some guidance while registering for the SAT, you can call on an SAT International Representative in your country. There is a list of official representatives who can help you on the College Board website. Remember that you must work with a representative who has been approved by the SAT program.

When you get the assistance of a representative, you’ll be registering on paper instead of online. After the registration form is complete, your representative is responsible for mailing it in by the deadline. Customer service is given in the language you speak, so if you need to register for the SAT in Spanish, for instance, you’ll speak with a representative who knows the language. Whether you need to hear details about the SAT in Spanish, Mandarin, or another language, the process of registration for the SAT is made easier with the help of a knowledgeable representative.

Testing Fees
You can find the list of testing fees connected with the SAT for international students on the College Board website. There is a special list featuring non-U.S. fees, with the countries organized by region. If you have an International Representative, they can help you understand this step in the process.

Preparation Tips for the SAT
Once you’ve registered for the SAT, it’s time to switch your focus to test preparation. The first thing to do is take a practice SAT. Your results will reveal your strongest skills as well as the skills that need a little work. Our SAT tutoring program can then give you strategies to boost your scores on each section of the test. We can pair you with a tutor who understands the way you learn. Plus, we’ll create a customized study plan that helps to strengthen your weakest skills, building your confidence for the test.

Our talented instructors can provide you with guidance on everything from learning SAT vocabulary to refreshing your algebra skills. When you study with Veritas Prep, you work with instructors who scored in the top one percent on the SAT. We believe that if you’re going to prepare for the SAT, it pays to have the best teachers!

More Advice for Success on the SAT
After registering for the SAT and dedicating plenty of time to preparation, make sure to take a few final precautions as your test day arrives. Be sure to start out the day with a high-protein breakfast to maintain your energy level as you tackle all of those challenging SAT questions. Be sure you have the proper identification and other paperwork you need so you can check into the testing center right away and sit for the test. Practice calming breathing techniques to relax a bit before the SAT begins. Getting in the right frame of mind is very helpful on test day.

Check out our free video tutorials to get a taste of what we have to offer students who study with us for the SAT. In addition to having a staff of experienced, professional instructors, we use proven learning materials and resources in our instructional program. This combination provides you with solid preparation for every question you encounter on the SAT. We are proud to offer in-person and online courses as well as private tutoring and On Demand instruction. You can choose the option that best fits into your schedule of activities and obligations. Contact Veritas Prep today and get ready to ace the SAT!

Still need to take the SAT? Check out our variety of free SAT resources to help you study successfully. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Quarter Wit Quarter Wisdom: How to Read GMAT Questions Carefully

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomWe all know that we need to be very careful while reading GMAT questions – that every word is important. Even small oversights can completely change an answer for you. This is what happens with many test takers who try to tackle this official question. Even though the question looks very simple, the way it is worded causes test-takers to often ignore one word, which changes the solution entirely. Let’s look at this question now:

Alice’s take-home pay last year was the same each month, and she saved the same fraction of her take-home pay each month. The total amount of money that she had saved at the end of the year was 3 times the amount of that portion of her monthly take-home pay that she did NOT save. If all the money that she saved last year was from her take-home pay, what fraction of her take-home pay did she save each month?

(A) 1/2
(B) 1/3
(C) 1/4
(D) 1/5
(E) 1/6

Let’s consider the question stem sentence by sentence:

“Alice’s take-home pay last year was the same each month, and she saved the same fraction of her take-home pay each month.”

Say Alice’s take-home pay last year was $100 each month. She saves a fraction of this every month – let the amount saved be x.

“The total amount of money that she had saved at the end of the year was 3 times the amount of that portion of her monthly take-home pay that she did NOT save.”

What would be “the total amount of money that she had saved at the end of the year”? Since Alice saves x every month, she would have saved 12x by the end of the year.

What would be “the amount of that portion of her monthly take-home pay that she did NOT save”? Note that this is going to be (100 – x). Many test takers end up using (100 – x)*12, however this equation is not correct. The key word here is “monthly” – we are looking for how much Alice does not save each month, not how much she does not save during the whole year.

The total amount of money that Alice saved at the end of the year is 3 times the amount of that portion of her MONTHLY take-home pay that she did not save. Now we know we are looking for:

12x = 3*(100 – x)
x = 20

“If all the money that she saved last year was from her take-home pay, what fraction of her take-home pay did she save each month?”

From our equation, we have determined that Alice saved $20 out of every $100 she earned every month, so she saved 20/100 = 1/5 of her take-home pay.

Therefore, the answer is D.

Often, test-takers make the mistake of writing the equation as:

12x = 3*(100 – x)*12
x = 300/4

However, this will give them the fraction (300/4)/100 = 3/4, and that’s when they will wonder what went wrong.

Be extra careful when reading GMAT questions so that precious minutes are not wasted on such avoidable errors.

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

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!

ACT Vocabulary Tricks and Tips

ReflectingStudying vocabulary should be on your schedule of things to do as you prepare for the English and Reading sections on the ACT. Numerous lists are available online that feature words commonly seen on the test.

Fortunately, there are many simple tricks and techniques to help you learn and remember ACT vocabulary words and definitions.

Personalize Your Flashcards
Flashcards are a traditional tool for students who are learning vocabulary for the ACT. But you can make your flashcards more effective by taking them a step further. Include the word, its definition, and a personalized sentence on each flashcard. For instance, if you’re learning the word “cunning,” you may create a sentence about your little sister such as, “My sister is cunning about stealing cookies out of the cookie jar.” The word “cunning” means “crafty” or “clever.” You’re more likely to remember a word and its definition when you study it in a personalized context.

The creators of the ACT are interested in measuring your understanding of words and how they are used as opposed to just the number of words you’re able to memorize, so it’s important to thoroughly understand each word you learn.

Expand Your Reading List
Another successful strategy to use when learning vocabulary for the ACT is to read a wide variety of material. For instance, if you usually limit your recreational reading to fiction, try reading some biographies or articles in science or nature magazines, or choose a subject you want to learn more about, such as an animal, a country, space travel, the Industrial Revolution, or a famous individual in history. You are more likely to be an active reader when delving into a subject you’re curious about.

When you vary your reading material, you are exposing yourself to larger amounts of unfamiliar vocabulary. As you read, make a list of the words you don’t know and look up the definitions later. Try to determine the definition of a word by looking at the context in which it’s used, then check the dictionary to see if you were right.

Use New Words on a Daily Basis
As you are focusing on learning ACT vocabulary, try using some of your newly acquired words in your daily life. Saying a word aloud in the correct context is an excellent way to solidify it in your memory. You could do this in your classes at school, during club meetings, or at home with your family. In addition, try including a few of the words in papers and other assignments for your English classes. Why not score some extra points on your schoolwork as you prepare for the English and Reading sections on the ACT?

Play Word Games
Playing word games is one of the best ways to prepare for the ACT. There are many online games that ask you to match a definition with the correct word or vice-versa. Some games test your speed at unscrambling letters to make a word that pairs with a definition. Various types of word games can be played by two or more people, so you can get together to play a game with a few friends who are also preparing for the ACT. Making the learning process fun with colorful graphics, music, and exciting challenges helps you add to your growing supply of words.

Take Several Practice Tests
Another effective way to prep for the Reading and English sections on the ACT is to take practice tests. This helps you to figure out which skills you’ve mastered as well as the ones that need work. If you’re worried about these two sections on the ACT, completing practice questions can make you feel more prepared on test day.

Our instructors achieved extremely high scores on the ACT, so when you study with us, you have access to the proven tips and tricks used by our instructors to learn ACT vocabulary. But the ACT tutors at Veritas Prep are more than experts at helping you learn ACT vocabulary: we can also teach you strategies you can use on all parts of the exam. Take advantage of our free trial class to become familiar with the material on the ACT and discover what our instructors at Veritas Prep can do to help you succeed on test day.

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Solving the Fuel-Up Puzzles

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomWe hope you are enjoying the puzzles we have been putting up in the last few weeks. Though all of them may not be directly convertible to GMAT questions, they are great mathematical brain teasers!

(Before we tackle today’s puzzle, first take a look at our posts on how to solve pouring water puzzles, weighing puzzles, and hourglass puzzles.)

Another variety of puzzle involves distributing fuel among vehicles to reach a destination. Let’s look at this type of question today:

A military car carrying an important letter must cross a desert. There is no petrol station in the desert, and the car’s fuel tank is just enough to take it halfway across. There are other cars with the same fuel capacity that can transfer their petrol to one another. There are no canisters to carry extra fuel or rope to tow the cars.

How can the letter be delivered?

Here, we are given that a single car can only reach the midpoint of the desert on its own tank of gas. Since there are no canisters, the car cannot carry extra fuel, so it will need to be fueled up by other cars traveling along with it.

Let’s fill up 4 cars and get them to start crossing the desert together. By the time they cover a quarter of the desert, half of their fuel tanks will be empty. Hence, we will have 4 cars with half tanks, and the status of their fuel tanks will be:

(0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0.5)

If we transfer the fuel from two of the cars into two other cars, we will have:

(1, 1, 0, 0)

The two cars with fuel in their tanks will continue to cross the desert and cover another quarter of it. Now both of the cars will have half tanks again, and they will have reached the middle of the desert:

(0.5, 0.5, 0, 0)

Now one car will transfer all of its fuel to the other car, allowing that car to have one full tank:

(1, 0, 0, 0)

That car can then carry the letter through the remaining half of the desert.

For this problem, we didn’t really care about the stalled cars in the middle of the desert since we are not required to bring them back. The only important thing is to get the letter completely across the desert. Now, how do we handle a puzzle that asks us to get all of the vehicles back, too? Let’s look at an example question with those constraints:

A distant planet “X” has only one airport located at the planet’s North Pole. There are only 3 airplanes and lots of fuel at the airport. Each airplane has just enough fuel capacity to get to the South Pole (which is diametrically opposite the North Pole). The airplanes can land anywhere on the planet and transfer their fuel to one another.

The mission is for at least one airplane to fly completely around the globe and stay above the South Pole; in the end, all of the airplanes must return to the airport at the North Pole.

For this problem, we are given that a plane with a full tank of fuel can only reach the South Pole, i.e. cover half the distance it needs to travel for the mission. We need it to take a full trip around the planet – from the North Pole, to the South pole, and back again to North Pole. Obviously, we will need more than one plane to fuel the plane which will fly above the South pole.

Let’s divide the distance from pole to pole into thirds (from the North Pole to the South Pole we have three thirds, and from the South Pole to the North Pole we have another three thirds).

Step #1: 2 airplanes will fly to the first third. A third of their fuel will be used, so the status of their fuel tanks will be:

(2/3, 2/3)

One airplane will then fuel up the other plane and go back to the airport. Now the status of their tanks is:

(3/3, 1/3)

Step #2: 2 airplanes will again fly from the airport to the first third – one airplane will fuel up the other plane and go back to the airport. So the status of these two airplanes is this:

(3/3, 1/3)

Step #3: Now there are two airplanes at the first third mark with their tanks full. They will now fly to the second third point, giving us:

(2/3, 2/3)

One of the airplanes will fuel up the second one (until its tank is full) and go back to the first third, where it will meet the third airplane (which has just come back from the airport to support it with fuel) so that they both can return to the airport.

In the meantime, the airplane at the second third, with a full tank of fuel, will fly as far as it can – over the South Pole and towards the North pole, to the last third before the airport.

Step #4: One of the two airplanes from the airport can now go to the first third (on the opposite side of the North pole as before), and share its 1/3 fuel so that both airplanes safely land back at the airport.

And that is how we can have one plane travel completely around the planet and still have all airplanes arrive back safely!

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

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!

Applying to Business School with a Gap in Employment on Your Resume

Successful ApplicantOne of the biggest red flags Admissions Committees encounter during the business school application process is an employment gap on an applicant’s resume. This is unfortunate because for those afflicted, this is often an area that is usually out of the applicant’s control.

Most people are not looking to have an employment gap on their resume, and such periods of joblessness are usually the result of a series of unfortunate events. This problem was much bigger during the global economic crisis a few years back, but the effects of this event still remain on many resumes.

If you have a work gap on your resume, know that it is not the end of the world and that you are not alone on this front – how you mitigate this blip on your resume will be more important to MBA programs than the gap itself – however, don’t completely ignore this issue altogether. Do not treat a gap in employment as something that will not be a concern for the Admissions Committee.

At the very least, if it is a material employment gap, this issue should be addressed in the optional essay. As with most topics you discuss in your optional essay, your explanation and clarification of the employment gap should be concise and to the point. Admissions Committees are not looking for a long-winded string of excuses here – be direct, take ownership of the incident, and identify lessons you learned from it, if appropriate.

Another way to confront an employment gap is through one of the more traditional MBA application essays. If the reason behind the gap or the results of the gap have had a profound impact on your life or career (and it makes sense given the essay prompt), it may be appropriate to take a deeper dive into your situation. A full-blown response like this requires a more nuanced degree of thoughtfulness, so it will be key to do some self-reflection and really identify the underpinnings of your employment gap.

The business school interview represents another area where your employment gap can be addressed by a member of the Admissions Committee. This is probably the most direct way your employment gap will be explored. Keep your explanation simple and avoid making excuses or blaming others. A major mistake many in this position make is disparaging an old employer or an ex-boss. This may actually come across as unprofessional and it generally leaves a bad impression on the interviewer.

Do not let a past employment gap set the tone for your future success at business school. Be prepared to address your history, and take ownership of it in a way that positions yourself for success in the MBA application process.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

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

How to Choose a College Major

GMATOur college admissions consultants at Veritas Prep are experts at helping students navigate their way through the admissions process. We help students with everything from filling out college applications to crafting a convincing college essay. Of course, once a student is accepted into a college, they must choose a major.

We’ve found that there are many students who wonder how to choose a college major. One student may have so many interests that they don’t know where to focus their studies. Another student may not know how to translate their interest in one subject into a future career. Fortunately, there are many helpful tips for students wondering how to pick a college major.

Identify Interests
Is it a passing interest or an enduring one? Generally, most high school students can put each of their interests into one of those two categories. Some students can recognize an enduring interest right away. For instance, one student might remember being interested in science ever since the first grade – they always enjoyed collecting data, performing lab experiments, and making observations in science classes. This student knows that they’d like to translate their love of science into a career.

Alternatively, there are other students who need to examine several of their interests in order to find an enduring one. One student may love caring for animals but also relishes spending time working at an uncle’s law firm as an office assistant. This student needs to compare their level of interest in each of these activities to figure out which one appeals to them the most. Once a student pinpoints their enduring interests, it’s time to do some online research.

Research Occupations
There are many websites that provide students with examples of occupations within a particular field. The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is one of the most valuable resources available to high school students. Also, online research makes it possible for a student to learn the details of specific occupations. Salary, opportunities for promotion, and average hours worked are all facts included in a job’s profile.

It’s a good idea for students to keep a list of pertinent questions handy so they can take a good look at the viability of a particular career. All of this research enables a student to choose a major with coursework that prepares them for a desirable occupation.

Talk to Professionals in Various Fields
Talking with a professional who works in a particular occupation can be very useful to a student who is looking for a major. For instance, the student with a passion for science may want to talk with a science teacher at a local elementary school. They can find out what the instructor likes and dislikes about the work. Plus, they can ask the teacher about daily responsibilities and how to get students interested in a lesson. The science teacher can offer a personal perspective on the occupation that can’t be found via online research.

Participate in Volunteer Work
Students wondering how to choose a college major based on an interest may want to engage in some volunteer work. For example, a student who thinks they want to major in veterinary medicine may want to ask a local vet if they can volunteer at their office. This gives the student a chance to talk with the vet and observe the daily activities of a veterinary practice. The time spent volunteering can either strengthen a student’s interest in a certain activity or persuade them to examine other interests.

Meet With a College Counselor
Meeting with a college counselor is helpful even if a student is still undecided on a major. This professional has experience with students who are wondering how to pick a college major out of all of the options available. They will be able to offer simple strategies for how to evaluate various interests. Once a student decides on a major, the counselor can direct them toward the next step of officially declaring the major and beginning on a specific path of study.

Contact Veritas Prep today and we can assist you with the college admissions process, SAT and ACT preparation, and much more. Give us the opportunity to prep you for a successful four years in college!

Do you need more help navigating the college admissions process? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Get Ahead of the GRE With Math Tutoring

ProfessorThe Quantitative Reasoning portion of the GRE has two sections with 20 questions in each. You are given 30 minutes to complete each of these sections. If you feel a little uncertain about this portion of the exam, getting a GRE math tutor can prove helpful in a variety of ways.

Focus on Your Weakest Skills
When you study with a GRE math tutor, you can start strengthening your weakest skills right away. Part of the Veritas Prep tutoring program involves evaluating your skills for every section of the GRE. If the results of your evaluation, or practice test, reveal that you need to sharpen your algebra skills, then your tutor will incorporate that into your customized study plan. Alternatively, if your results reveal that you are highly skilled in the area of geometry, then less time will be spent reviewing that particular topic. Following a specially-designed study plan allows you to get the most out of every tutoring session.

Learn Strategies to Solve Math Problems
Studying with an experienced GRE math tutor gives you the opportunity to learn solid strategies to use on the Quantitative Reasoning section. One valuable strategy is to draw illustrations for geometry problems instead of trying to mentally juggle all of the important elements of a question. Seeing an illustration can help you arrive at the correct answer more quickly.

You can use your scrap paper for writing the steps of algebra problems as well, so if you make a mistake, you can look at the steps to find the error. Another valuable strategy is to scan each math problem and eliminate answer options that are obviously wrong. Right away, this makes seemingly complicated math questions easier to handle.

Practice With an Experienced Instructor
When you work through practice geometry, data analysis, algebra, and arithmetic problems with a tutor, you’ll be getting the guidance you need to master each skill. For example, if you arrive at the incorrect answer to a practice algebra problem, your tutor can review each step with you to reveal where you went wrong. More importantly, your tutor can give you pointers that help you to avoid making the same mistake on similar math problems.

The tutors at Veritas Prep achieved high scores on the GRE, so when you study with us, you’re getting strategies straight from experts. Also, we take the time to match you with a tutor who is familiar with your learning style. This makes your tutoring sessions even more productive.

Get Support When Preparing for the Exam
You’re likely to have a lot of questions as you prep for the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE. In fact, questions may come up on a daily basis. Maybe you’ll think of one while you’re driving, sitting at work, or having lunch with a friend.

One option is to write down those questions and ask them during your next tutoring session. But if you’re preparing for the GRE with Veritas Prep, you could also email your questions to us. We provide our students with prompt answers so they can continue on the right track with their study efforts. Online support combined with quality instruction and study resources make our GRE tutoring services second to none.

Accountability Counts
Preparing with a math tutor can give you an extra element of accountability. You’ll spend a lot of time working with your tutor and studying independently for the Quantitative Reasoning section of the test. This makes you accountable to both your tutor and to yourself. You truly want to perform at your best on the exam so your efforts, as well as your tutor’s, pay off in the end.

When you make the decision to study with a tutor for the Quantitative Reasoning section, you’ll want to partner with the best. Our GRE study program provides you the advantages you need to achieve a high score on the test. Our experienced tutors understand what it takes to prepare for this exam and will be there to offer you encouragement at every step. We are so sure of the quality of our GRE tutoring courses that we back them up with a guarantee. We are invested in your success! Contact our offices to arrange for a knowledgeable GRE math tutor today.

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

Converting Your SAT Score to an IQ Score

QuestioningWhen you hear the words “SAT score,” it probably brings to mind senior year, percentiles, college applications, and lots of studying. But have you ever considered SAT scores vs. IQ scores? Does your SAT score have anything to do with your IQ? 

What Does the SAT Measure?
There are many helpful study tips to take advantage of when you’re preparing for the SAT. But have you ever paused to consider what the SAT actually measures? The Reading, Writing & Language, Math, and Essay sections on the SAT are designed to gauge how ready you are for college-level work.

For instance, the Reading section tests your reading comprehension skills, including your ability to recognize an author’s tone and determine the meaning of various words in context. Alternatively, the Math section tests your skills in geometry, algebra, data analysis, and more. Naturally, most college admissions officials want to select applicants who they believe will thrive in their academic endeavors, and a student’s SAT score is one factor in an admissions official’s decision.

What Is Your IQ?
Your intelligence quotient, or IQ, is another type of measurement. An IQ test measures things like your ability to use logic, your verbal reasoning skills, spatial awareness, and visual abilities. Basically, your IQ score shows how versatile of a thinker you are and how good you are are problem-solving. According to Mensa, the high IQ society, a “genius” IQ is generally one that’s 132 or higher. Someone with average intelligence typically has an IQ between 85 and 114.

SAT vs. IQ Scores
There is one major difference to point out when considering SAT vs. IQ scores: the SAT measures a person’s knowledge of certain subjects, while an IQ test measures a person’s general thinking abilities. You can take steps to practice for the SAT and improve your score, but you can’t study for an IQ test. Additionally, many colleges require students to submit an SAT score (or ACT score) along with their applications, but do not ask for an IQ score submission. 

SAT-to-IQ Conversion
There are SAT-to-IQ conversion charts and calculators online that ask you to plug in the scores you received on the Verbal and Math sections of the SAT. Within seconds, the conversion calculator displays an IQ connected with your total SAT score.

There is usually a disclaimer attached to the results reminding you that the number you see is only an estimate of your IQ. But are these figures really accurate? It depends. Scores on some versions of the SAT have been shown to strongly correlate with IQ scores, but for more recent test-takers, that’s not necessarily the case.

Also, it’s important to consider whether your SAT scores paint an accurate picture of your abilities. Perhaps you were sick on test day and weren’t able to stay focused on the work, resulting in an inaccurate SAT score. Also, some individuals feel a lot of pressure when taking standardized tests, so their test score may not be a true reflection of their abilities. These factors and others can have a big effect on a person’s SAT scores, meaning that even if you can convert your SAT score to an IQ, the result might not be accurate.

Preparing for the SAT
If you want help studying for the SAT, we have what you need at Veritas Prep! Each of our SAT instructors scored in the top one percent themselves, so when you take our SAT prep courses, you are learning test-taking strategies from individuals who’ve conquered the exam. In addition to practical advice about the SAT, our instructors provide you with encouragement as you work your way through our study resources that address all parts of the test.

It’s important to know that your tutor is behind you 100 percent. We’ll evaluate the results of your practice SAT to find out where we can be of the most help. And we have several options to choose from when it comes to SAT prep, providing both online and in-person courses, because we know that high school students are busy people who need a study program that fits with their schedule. Private tutoring is another option if you like to learn one-on-one.

Feel free to check out our video tutorials to get some valuable SAT tips right away: These tutorials are just a preview of what we can do to boost your test performance. Email or call Veritas Prep now to start preparing for excellence on the SAT!

Still need to take the SAT? Check out our variety of free SAT resources to help you study successfully. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

How to Use a 1-Year MBA Program to Make Your Career Switch

MBA Admissions1-year MBA programs represent a great opportunity to secure a graduate business education at an accelerated pace. This program format has long been a staple in Europe, with venerable programs like INSEAD establishing a successful track record of success in producing top flight candidates via their accelerated curriculum.

The 1-year program has taken a bit longer to gain steam in the United States, but largely pioneered by Kellogg’s 1-year program, this format has begun to pick up in popularity in the U.S. as well.

The benefits of these 1-year programs are obvious to interested students – the ability to shave a year off of one’s time away at business school is attractive to many MBA applicants. This shorter program format also typically comes with a reduced price tag and a much lower opportunity cost, allowing students to get back into the work force much faster.

Time and money aside, most applicants are primarily considering business school for career reasons. The ability to pursue desired career opportunities, which are directly provided by their business school, tends to be the leading decision driver for those interested in a 1-year program. Given the shorter timeline of a 1-year program, it has largely been seen as an ideal choice for MBA candidates seeking to remain in the same industry or with the same employer. For those seeking to make a career switch post-MBA this program may not be ideal, but it certainly presents some opportunities.

For more traditional MBA feeder industries like management consulting and investment banking – where recruiters are looking more for raw talent and intellectual horsepower than for work experience – having pre-existing industry experience is less important. The key loss here is the inability to test out an industry through internships prior to accepting a job, which many MBA candidates on the traditional 2-year track have the opportunity to do. Also, the reduced opportunities to secure a job offer, given the 1-year program’s tendency to focus only on full-time employment, puts an intense emphasis on making the most of the chances a 1-year business school student does have.

Many 1-year MBA programs do offer in-term internship opportunities that give interested students the chance to test out industries and jobs in other fields. The key for 1-year students is to really come into business school with a plan. By understanding the limitations of the 1-year program, students can better plan paths to achieve their post-MBA goals. The clearer one’s goals are prior to matriculation, the more realistic it will be to make a career switch after graduation.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

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

Quarter Wit Quarter Wisdom: Solving the Weighing Puzzle (Part 2)

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomA couple of weeks back, we discussed how to handle puzzles involving a two pan balance. In those problems, we learned how to tackle problems that ask you to measure items against one another.

Today, we will look at some puzzles that require the use of a traditional weighing scale. When we put an object on this scale, it shows us the weight of the object.

This is what such a scale looks like:

Puzzles involving a weighing scale can be quite tricky! Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:

You have 10 bags with 1000 coins in each. In one of the bags, all of the coins are forgeries. A true coin weighs 1 gram; each counterfeit coin weighs 1.1 grams. 

If you have an accurate weighing scale, which you can use only once, how can you identify the bag with the forgeries?

We are allowed only a single weighing, so we cannot weigh all 10 bags on the scale individually to measure which one has counterfeit coins. We need to find the bag in only one weighing, so we need to somehow make the coins in the bags distinctive.

How do we do that? We can take out one coin from the first bag, two coins from the second bag, three coins from the third bag and so on. Finally, we will have 1 + 2 + 3 + … + 10 = 10*11/2 = 55 coins.

Let’s weigh these 55 coins now.

If all coins were true, the total weight would have been 55 grams. But since some coins are counterfeit, the total weight will be more. Say, the total weight comes out to be 55.2 grams. What can we deduce from this? We can deduce that there must be two counterfeit coins (because each counterfeit coin weighs 0.1 gram extra). So the second bag must be the bag of counterfeit coins.

Let’s try one more:

A genuine gummy bear has a mass of 10 grams, while an imitation gummy bear has a mass of 9 grams. You have 7 cartons of gummy bears, 4 of which contain real gummy bears while the others contain imitation bears. 

Using a scale only once and the minimum number of gummy bears, how can you determine which cartons contain real gummy bears?

Now this has become a little complicated! There are three bags with imitation gummy bears. Taking a cue from the previous question, we know that we should take out a fixed number of gummy bears from each bag, but now we have to ensure that the sum of any three numbers is unique. Also, we have to keep in mind that we need to use the minimum number of gummy bears.

So from the first bag, take out no gummy bears.

From the second bag, take out 1 gummy bear.

From the third bag, take out 2 gummy bears (if we take out 1 gummy bear, the sum will be the same in case the second bag has imitation gummy bears or in case third bag has imitation gummy bears.

From the fourth bag, take out 4 gummy bears. We will not take out 3 because otherwise 0 + 3 and 1 + 2 will give us the same sum. So we won’t know whether the first and fourth bags have imitation gummy bears or whether second and third bags have imitation gummy bears.

From the fifth bag, take out 7 gummy bears. We have obtained this number by adding the highest triplet: 1 + 2 + 4 = 7. Note that anything less than 7 will give us a sum that can be made in multiple ways, such as:

0 + 1 + 6 = 7 and 1 + 2 + 4 = 7
or
0 + 1 + 5 = 6 and 0 + 2 + 4 = 6

But we need the sum to be obtainable in only one way so that we can find out which three bags contain the imitation gummy bears.

At this point, we have taken out 0, 1, 2, 4, and 7 gummy bears.

From the sixth bag, take out 13 gummy bears. We have obtained this number by adding the highest triplet: 2 + 4 + 7 = 13. Note that anything less than 13 will, again, give us a sum that can be made in multiple ways, such as:

12 + 1 + 0 = 13 and 2 + 4 + 7 = 13
or
0 + 1 + 9 = 10 and 1 + 2 + 7 = 10
…etc.

Note that this way, we are also ensuring that we measure only the minimum number of gummy bears, which is what the question asks us to do.

From the seventh bag, take out 24 gummy bears. We have obtained this number by adding the highest triplet again: 4 + 7 + 13 = 24. Again, anything less than 24 will give us a sum that can be made in multiple ways, such as:

0 + 1 + 15 = 16 and 1 + 2 + 13 = 16
or
0 + 1 + 19 = 20 and 0 + 7 + 13 = 20
or
0 + 1 + 23 = 24 and 4 + 7 + 13 = 24
…etc.

Thus, this is the way we will pick the gummy bears from the 7 bags: 0, 1, 2, 4, 7, 13, 24.

In all, 51 gummy bears will be weighed. Their total weight should be 510 grams (51*10 = 510) but because three bags have imitation gummy bears, the weight obtained will be less.

Say the weight is less by 8 grams. This means that the first bag (which we pulled 0 gummy bears from), the second bag (which we pulled 1 gummy bear from) and the fifth bag (which we pulled 7 gummy bears from) contain the imitation gummy bears. This is because 0 + 1 + 7 = 8 – note that we will not be able to make 8 with any other combination.

We hope this tricky little problem got you thinking. Work those grey cells and the GMAT will not seem hard at all!

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

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.

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

By Brian Galvin.

ACT English Tips to Improve Your Score

writing essayIn the English section on the ACT, you have 45 minutes to finish all 75 multiple-choice questions. This section tests your grammar and punctuation skills. Also, you have the opportunity to showcase your skills when it comes to understanding sentence structure.

There’s also a Reading section that evaluates your comprehension skills with 40 multiple-choice questions in 35 minutes. But with a little preparation and some useful strategies, you can improve your score on both the ACT English and Reading sections.

Read the Entire Passage
Most students understand the importance of reading all of the passages included on the ACT Reading test, as this section includes questions designed to measure how well you can understand and interpret the text. But it’s just as important to fully read the passages on the English section of the test.

The English section is made up of five passages containing underlined phrases. You’re given several alternative options for each underlined phrase. Your job is to choose the one that’s a better fit for the sentence. You also have a “no change” option if you think the sentence is correct as it is.

One of the most valuable ACT English tips to keep in mind is to read the entire passage instead of just the underlined phrase. Other sentences in the passage can give you clues about the correct answer. The ACT instructors at Veritas Prep can help you boost your score on the English section by guiding you through practice English questions. We’ll provide you with strategies on how to evaluate the options to arrive at the correct answer. Each of our instructors scored in the top one percent of ACT test-takers, so when you study for the ACT with Veritas Prep, you’re working with someone who has mastered the material!

Be on the Lookout for Parallel Structure
Looking for parallel structure in the sentences of each passage can help you to find the correct alternative to an underlined phrase. If an underlined phrase isn’t parallel with the rest of the sentence, then it needs to be replaced with one of the answer options.

An example sentence might be, “Philip enjoys reading, horseback riding, and to swim.” This sentence is not parallel because it contains mixed verb forms. The correct version of this sentence is, “Philip enjoys reading, horseback riding, and swimming.” Philip’s third hobby, “swimming,” should have the same verb form as his first two hobbies. Reading articles in science magazines, online newspapers, and other publications can help you become familiar with parallel structure. The more reading you do, the easier it will be to recognize a passage with sentences that are not parallel in form.

Look for Subject and Verb Agreement
One of simplest tips to remember when completing the ACT English section is to look for agreement between the subject and the verb of a sentence. If the subject of a sentence is singular, then its verb should also be singular. The same goes for plural subjects and plural verbs.

Consider All of the Answer Options
This is a necessary addition to any list of ACT English tips. Understandably, many students are anxious or nervous on test day. Most want to jump right in and get started on the questions. Because of this nervousness, a student may skim passages, glance at the answer options, and choose one that looks like the obvious answer. This is a trap you want to avoid. Take the time to look at all of the answer choices before selecting one. The most obvious answer is not always the right one.

Read the Corrected Sentences to Yourself
Once you choose an alternative option for an underlined phrase, it’s a smart idea to insert it into the sentence and quietly read it to yourself. This can help you to determine whether the changed sentence flows or sounds clunky. If the sentence doesn’t sound right in your mind, it is worth your time to go back and reconsider the option you selected.

At Veritas Prep, we offer a free online ACT prep seminar that gives you the chance to see what our study program is all about. We give you the guidance you need for tackling the ACT Reading and English sections as well as the rest of the exam. Students who work with us prep for the test using the most effective study materials and resources. Our professional instructors are not only experts on the ACT, but they recognize the value of providing lots of encouragement to their students. And you have the option of either taking an online class or participating in one of our in-person courses. Either way, we’ll give you the preparation you need to excel on the ACT!

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Solving the Hourglass Puzzle

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomLet’s continue our puzzles discussion today with another puzzle type – time measurement using an hourglass. (Before you continue reading this article, check out our posts on how to solve pouring water puzzles and weighing and balancing puzzles)

First, understand what an hourglass is – it is a mechanical device used to measure the passage of time. It is comprised of two glass bulbs connected vertically by a narrow neck that allows a regulated trickle of sand from the upper bulb to fall into the lower one. The sand also takes a fixed amount of time to fall from the upper bulb to the lower bulb. Hourglasses may be reused indefinitely by inverting the bulbs once the upper bulb is empty.

This is what they look like:

Say a 10-minute hourglass will let us measure time in intervals of 10 minutes. This means all of the sand will flow from the upper bulb to the lower bulb in exactly 10 minutes. We can then flip the hourglass over – now sand will start flowing again for the next 10 minutes, and so on. We cannot measure, say, 12 minutes using just a 10-minute hourglass, but we can measure more time intervals when we have two hourglasses of different times. Let’s look at this practice problem to see how this can be done:

A teacher of mathematics used an unconventional method to measure a 15-minute time limit for a test. He used a 7-minute and an 11-minute hourglass. During the whole time, he turned the hourglasses only 3 times (turning both hourglasses at once counts as one flip). Explain how the teacher measured out 15 minutes.

Here, we have a 7-minute hourglass and an 11-minute hourglass. This means we can measure time in intervals of 7 minutes as well as in intervals of 11 minutes. But consider this: if both hourglasses start together, at the end of 7 minutes, we will have 4 minutes of sand leftover in the top bulb of the 11-minute hourglass. So we can also measure out 4 minutes of time.

Furthermore, if we flip the 7-minute hourglass over at this time and let it flow for that 4 minutes (until the sand runs out of the top bulb of the 11-minute hourglass), we will have 3 minutes’ worth of sand leftover in the 7-minute hourglass. Hence, we can measure a 3 minute time interval, too, and so on…

Now, let’s see how we can measure out 15 minutes of time using our 7-minute and 11-minute hourglasses.

First, start both hourglasses at the same time. After the top bulb of the 7-minute hourglass is empty, flip it over again. At this time, we have 4 minutes’ worth of sand still in the top bulb of the 11-minute hourglass. When the top bulb of the 11-minute hourglass is empty, the bottom bulb of 7-minute hourglass will have 4 minutes’ worth of sand in it. At this point, 11 minutes have passed

Now simply flip the 7-minute hourglass over again and wait until the sand runs to the bottom bulb, which will be in 4 minutes.

This is how we measure out 11 + 4 = 15 minutes of time using a 7-minute hourglass and an 11-minute hourglass.

Let’s look at another problem:

Having two hourglasses, a 7-minute one and a 4-minute one, how can you correctly time out 9 minutes?

Now we need to measure out 9 minutes using a 7-minute hourglass and a 4-minute hourglass. Like we did for the last problem, begin by starting both hourglasses at the same time. After 4 minutes pass, all of the sand in the 4-minute hourglass will be in the lower bulb. Now flip this 4-minute hourglass back over again. In the 7-minute hourglass, there will be 3 minutes’ worth of sand still in the upper bulb.

After 3 minutes, all of the sand from the 7-minute hourglass will be in the lower bulb and 1 minute’s worth of sand will be in the upper bulb of the 4-minute hourglass.

This is when we will start our 9-minute interval.

The 1 minute’s worth of sand will flow to the bottom bulb of the 4-minute hourglass. Then we just need to flip the 4-minute hourglass over and let all of the sand flow out (which will take 4 minutes), and then flip the hourglass over to let all of the sand flow out again (which will take another 4 minutes).

In all, we have measured out a 1 + 4 + 4 = 9-minute interval, which is what the problem has asked us to find.

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

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 the SAT Works: Format Breakdown and Function

SAT Scantron TestIf you’re a junior or senior in high school, you’re probably planning to take the SAT. You know that the SAT is a standardized test taken by students across the country, and you know that college officials look at SAT scores when evaluating student applications. But have you ever taken a really close look at the parts of this well-known exam? Learning what’s on the new SAT and how the SAT works is an important first step in preparing for the test.

What Is the Purpose of the SAT?
The questions on the SAT are meant to reveal what you learned in your high school classes, so you should find that you’re already familiar with the types of material on this exam. In addition, the test is a way to evaluate whether you’ll be successful in your college courses. Of course, a high SAT score isn’t a guarantee of success in college, but the test serves as a way to measure your academic abilities.

The SAT Format
Reading, Writing & Language, and Math are the three tests that make up the SAT. There is also an optional Essay section. You have 65 minutes to complete the Reading section and 35 minutes to complete the Writing & Language section. In addition, you receive 80 minutes to complete the Math questions. As for the essay, you are given 50 minutes to write it.

The Reading and Writing & Language tests are multiple-choice. The Math test has multiple-choice questions as well as grid-in questions. Grid-in questions require you to figure out the answer to a math problem instead of selecting an answer option. The entire SAT takes about three hours and 50 minutes to finish. The total test time varies depending on the amount of breaks you’re given during the exam. You’re able to take the SAT either on paper or digitally.

The Reading Section
Taking a closer look at an SAT breakdown detailing the types of questions in each section can help you perform well on the test. The Reading section includes vocabulary in context, detail, function, inference, analogy, author technique, and main idea questions. After reading each passage, your job is to answer several multiple-choice questions about what you have read. This section has a total of 52 questions.

The Math Section
The SAT format for the Math section starts students off with relatively easy problems and gradually increases in difficulty. Geometry, trigonometry, algebra, and data analysis are all topics covered by questions in the Math section. You can use a calculator on some portions of the Math section but not others. There are 58 questions on the Math test.

The Writing & Language Section
There’s a Writing & Language section on the new SAT, as well. You’ll find several shorter reading passages here that are accompanied by questions. For each question, choose the answer option that corrects a grammar, punctuation, or structure error within the passage. Some questions include a “no change” option, which you should select if there is no error present. There are 44 questions in this section.

The Essay
The SAT essay gauges your ability to analyze the author’s argument, using evidence to support your points. You’re not called upon to agree or disagree with what the author is trying to convey. You have 50 minutes to write the essay. Though this is an optional part of the test, it’s a chance to highlight your ability to write an organized, thoughtful essay. Additionally, many colleges require their applicants to write this essay, so you will want to check with the schools you are interested in applying to.

Preparing for the Test
Now that you know the SAT breakdown and how the SAT works, you must make sure you’re prepared to dive in on test day. The tutoring program at Veritas Prep can provide you with simple strategies that help you navigate all sections of the exam. Each of our instructors has already proven their mastery of the test by earning a score in the 99th percentile on the SAT, so when you work with a Veritas Prep tutor, you’re studying with the best! We’ll have you take a practice SAT and look at your results to see where you can improve.

To make your tutoring sessions as effective as possible, we’ll match you with an instructor who is familiar with your learning style. Our online and in-person courses are designed to give you the resources you need to highlight your skills on the SAT. Call or email Veritas Prep today to learn more!

Still need to take the SAT? Check out our variety of free SAT resources to help you study successfully. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!