GMAT Tip of the Week: Taking the Least Amount of Time to Solve “At Least” Probability Problems

GMAT Tip of the WeekIn its efforts to keep everyone from getting perfect 800s, the GMAT has two powerful tools to stop you from perfection. For one, it can bait you into wrong answers (with challenging content, tempting trap answers, or a combination thereof). And secondly, it can waste your time, making it look like you need to do a lot of work when there’s a much simpler way.

Fortunately, and contrary to popular belief, the GMAT isn’t “pure evil.” Wherever it provides opportunities for less-savvy examinees to waste their time, it also provides a shortcut for those who have put in the study time to learn it or who have the patience to look for the elevator, so to speak, before slogging up the stairs. And one classic example of that comes with the “at least one” type of probability question.

To illustrate, let’s consider an example:

In a bowl of marbles, 8 are yellow, 6 are blue, and 4 are black. If Michelle picks 2 marbles out of the bowl at random and at the same time, what is the probability that at least one of the marbles will be yellow?

(A) 5/17
(B) 12/17
(C) 25/81
(D) 56/81
(E) 4/9

Here, you can first streamline the process along the lines of one of those “There are two types of people in the world: those who _______ and those who don’t _______” memes. Your goal is to determine whether you get a yellow marble, so you don’t care as much about “blue” and “black”…those can be grouped into “not yellow,” thereby giving you only two groups: 8 yellow marbles and 10 not-yellow marbles. Fewer groups means less ugly math!

But even so, trying to calculate the probability of every sequence that gives you one or two yellow marbles is labor intensive. You could accomplish that “not yellow” goal several ways:

First marble: Yellow; Second: Not Yellow
First: Not Yellow; Second: Yellow
First: Yellow; Second: Yellow

That’s three different math problems each involving fractions and requiring attention to detail. There ought to be an easier way…and there is. When a probability problem asks you for the probability of “at least one,” consider the only situation in which you WOULDN’T get at least one: if you got none. That’s a single calculation, and helpful because if the probability of drawing two marbles is 100% (that’s what the problem says you’re doing), then 100% minus the probability of the unfavorable outcome (no yellow) has to equal the probability of the favorable outcome. So if you determine “the probability of no yellow” and subtract from 1, you’re finished. That means that your problem should actually look like:

PROBABILITY OF NO YELLOW, FIRST DRAW: 10 non-yellow / 18 total
PROBABILITY OF NO YELLOW, SECOND DRAW: 9 remaining non-yellow / 17 remaining total

10/18 * 9/17 reduces to 10/2 * 1/17 = 5/17. Now here’s the only tricky part of using this technique: 5/17 is the probability of what you DON’T want, so you need to subtract that from 1 to get the probability you do want. So the answer then is 12/17, or B.

More important than this problem is the lesson: when you see an “at least one” probability problem, recognize that the probability of “at least one” equals 100% minus the probability of “none.” Since “none” is always a single calculation, you’ll always be able to save time with this technique. Had the question asked about three marbles, the number of favorable sequences for “at least one yellow” would be:

Yellow Yellow Yellow
Yellow Not-Yellow Not-Yellow
Yellow Not-Yellow Yellow
Yellow Yellow Not-Yellow
Not-Yellow Yellow Yellow

(And note here – this list is not yet exhaustive, so under time pressure you may very well forget one sequence entirely and then still get the problem wrong even if you’ve done the math right.)

Whereas the probability of No Yellow is much more straightforward: Not-Yellow, Not-Yellow, Not-Yellow would be 10/18 * 9/17 * 8/16 (and look how nicely that last fraction slots in, reducing quickly to 1/2). What would otherwise be a terrifying slog, the “long way” becomes quite quick the shorter way.

So, remember, when you see “at least one” probability on the GMAT, employ the “100% minus probability of none” strategy and you’ll save valuable time on at least one Quant problem on test day.

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 Hacks, Tricks, and Tips to Make Studying and Preparing for the GMAT Simpler

GoalsThe GMAT measures four general types of knowledge: Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. The entire test takes about three hours and 30 minutes to complete.

Preparing for this important exam may seem like a daunting task, but you can simplify the process with the help of some GMAT tips and tricks.

Use Mnemonics to Learn Vocabulary Words
Making a GMAT cheat sheet complete with mnemonics simplifies the process of learning vocabulary words for the Verbal section. Word pictures can help you to retain the words you’re learning. For instance, suppose you’re trying to learn the word “extricate.” “Extricate” means to free something or someone from a constraint or problem. You may pair the word with a mental picture of a group of people being freed from a stuck elevator by a technician. Creating mnemonics that relate to your life, family, or job can make them all the more memorable.

Look for Vocabulary Words in Context
Studying a GMAT cheat sheet full of words and mnemonics shouldn’t be the end of your vocabulary studies. It’s just as important to be able to recognize those words in context. If you’ve signed up to take the GMAT, there’s a good chance that you already read several business publications, so keep an eye out for the words used within those resources. Reading financial newspapers, magazines, and online articles that contain GMAT vocabulary words helps you become more familiar with them. After a while, you’ll know what the words mean without having to think about them.

Learn the Test Instructions Before Test Day
When you read the instructions for each section before test day arrives, you’ll know what to expect on the actual day. This can make you feel more relaxed about tackling each section. Also, you won’t have to use your test time reading instructions because you will already know what you’re doing.

Always Keep Some Study Materials Close By
When it comes to GMAT tips and strategies, the easiest ones can sometimes be the most effective. Even busy working professionals have free moments throughout the day. It’s a smart idea to use those moments for study and review. For instance, you can work on some practice math problems during a lunch or coffee break. If you have a dentist or doctor’s appointment, you can use virtual flashcards to quiz yourself on GMAT vocabulary words while you’re sitting in the waiting room. Taking a few minutes each day to review can add up to a lot of productive study time by the end of a week.

Set a Timer for Practice Tests
If you’re concerned about completing each section of the GMAT within the allotted number of minutes, one of our favorite GMAT hacks is to try setting a timer as you begin each section of a practice test. If the timer goes off before you’re finished with the section, you may be spending too much time on puzzling problems. Or perhaps you’re taking too much time to read the directions for each section rather than familiarizing yourself with them ahead of time.

Timing your practice tests helps you establish a rhythm that allows you to get through each section with a few minutes to spare for review. At Veritas Prep, we provide you with the opportunity to take a free exam. Taking this practice exam allows you to get a clear picture of what you’ll encounter on test day.

Get Into the Habit of Eliminating Wrong Answer Options
Another very effective GMAT strategy is to eliminate answer options that are clearly incorrect. With the exception of the analytical essay, this can be done on every portion of the test. Taking practice tests gives you the chance to establish this habit. By eliminating obviously incorrect answer options, you are making the most efficient use of your test time. Also, you are making the questions more manageable by giving yourself fewer answers to consider.

Here at Veritas Prep, our GMAT instructors follow a unique curriculum that shows you how to approach every problem on the test. We teach you how to strengthen your higher-order thinking skills so you’ll know how to use them to your advantage on the test. Contact our offices today to take advantage of our in-person prep courses or our private tutoring services. Learn GMAT hacks from professional instructors who’ve mastered the test!

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!

How to Successfully Prioritize in Business School

ChecklistOnce you get to business school, you’re going to hit the ground sprinting. It’s like a tornado picked you up and is whirling you through school, almost literally. The best way to not get stuck in this tornado is to have strict priorities, and actually stick to them. It’s fine to not know exactly what you want to do when you graduate yet, but you should at least have a general idea. And if you can figure out specifically what your goals are before you get to campus, you’ll certainly benefit.

So, here’s how you can prioritize both before and during your time at business school:

1) Get really comfortable talking to people on the phone. The more phone calls you can have with current students and alumni, the better. These will be helpful in initially determining where you want to go to school, and eventually in determining what you should get involved with once you get to campus.

2) Set a list of 3 priorities for yourself. What do you really want to get out of your time at business school? These can include finding a post-MBA career, gaining Quant skills, making new friends, having a lot of fun, etc. Determine why you want to go to business school and make sure you’re sticking to your priorities while you’re there. These priorities could change from month to month. In August, maybe your priority is meeting as many of your classmates as possible. In November, maybe your priority is learning how to case for consulting interviews. Just continue to check in with yourself throughout the year and make sure you’re on track with your goals.

3) Do your research. Every MBA program will have a huge selection of clubs for you to choose from. Looking to get into real estate? There’s a club for that. Want to do business in Africa? There’s a club for that too. Once you know what your goals are, you can then find clubs that align with your interests. But remember, don’t get too distracted by the allure of the Ice Hockey Club (or any other club that doesn’t really relate to your goals) if it’s going to pull you away from your main priorities.

4) Figure out what time commitments you want to add to your class schedule, because class already requires a lot of effort, especially if you don’t come from a quantitative background. In addition to general club membership, you’ll have the opportunity to take on leadership positions in your first year of school. Do you want to be your section’s president? How about the VP of Career Development for your target club? Holding a leadership position like these will take up more of your time than general club membership will, so factor these potential time commitments in when you’re deciding which clubs to join.

5) Know what you don’t want to do. If you don’t want to go into consulting, don’t waste your time on it. It’s really easy to get caught up in a sea of corporate presentations when all of your classmates are talking about really interesting companies, but if you know that you want to go into marketing, you probably don’t need to spend two hours at that BCG presentation with your consulting-focused classmates.

6) Determine a scheduling system that works for you. If you don’t use iCal or Google Calendar, etc., you might want to start. During your time at business school, there will be a lot of meetings, company presentations, study sessions, and social events that you’ll want to keep track of on the go. Make sure you have a way to remember everything so you don’t miss out on what’s important.

Before business school, I was very paper-oriented and I had a schedule written out almost daily. Now I almost exclusively use my iCal and sync it to my phone since I sometimes only have 5 minutes to get from one event to another, and it’s much easier to have my phone automatically tell me where to go than to have to pull out my paper planner.

Business school is only 2-3 years of your life. Make sure you’re prepared to take advantage of all of the resources that will be available to you, and be sure to make the most of it. Having priorities before you get to school will help you stay focused and on track for success. If you’re not sure what you want to go into yet, talk to the people at Veritas Prep – we’re here to help!

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.

Colleen Hill is a Veritas Prep consultant for the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. You can read more articles by her here

How to Effectively Prepare for the Analytical Writing Portion of the GRE

Keep Calm Write FastThe analytical writing section is one of the three parts of the GRE. Students are asked to write two different types of essays for this section. These essays reveal a student’s ability to understand what an author is conveying, organize ideas in a logical way, use specific examples to support their ideas, and write in a clear, concise manner. Let’s examine how to prepare for analytical writing, GRE essay tips, and more:

The Analytical Writing Section on the GRE
Students are required to write an issue essay and an argument essay for the GRE. For the issue essay, students must read a statement about a familiar topic. Then, they write an essay explaining whether they agree or disagree with the statement. Students should use specific examples to support their position.

For the argument essay, students must read and analyze an argument put forth by an author. Then, they write an essay proving that the argument is either logical or illogical based on specific examples from the text – the argument essay does not ask the student to agree or disagree with the author’s statement. It’s important for students to read the specific instructions that accompany both the issue and argument essays on the GRE.

Writing Practice Essays
There are several things students can do to prep for this section of the GRE. Analytical writing practice is very helpful for students who want to become more adept at creating both types of essays. It’s a good idea to start the process by making an outline that highlights the important points that a student wants to include in an essay. Then, a student can refer to the outline to stay on track while writing.

Students are given 30 minutes to write each of the essays for the GRE. Analytical writing practice should include using a timer to make sure that a student can finish writing an essay in the allotted amount of time. Of course, a student must factor in the time it takes to read the author’s statement, create an outline, and complete the essay itself. Getting the timing right can take some of the stress out of writing the essays on test day.

Examine Successful GRE Essays
Along with writing practice essays for the GRE, analytical writing preparation should include reading essays that received high scores on the exam. Students can look at the various components of these essays as well as how they are organized to get an idea of what test graders are looking for.

Some students may find it beneficial to use a high-scoring essay as a guide as they practice writing their own issue and argument essays. For many students, it’s useful to see the arrangement of ideas in these high-scoring essays. Often, students who write these successful essays follow a very simple outline that any student can use.

Learning New Vocabulary Words
Another important part of GRE analytical writing preparation is learning how to use appropriate words to get a point across in an essay. Students can expand their vocabulary by reading newspaper and magazine articles to become familiar with commonly used words and their definitions. Some students make flashcards to help them learn these new vocabulary words. In addition, a student has the opportunity to read well-crafted sentences in these types of publications.

Students can also benefit from looking at the vocabulary words used in essays that received high scores on the GRE. Even if students don’t use all of these newly-learned words in their GRE essays, they may use them in future assignments and papers written for graduate school courses. In short, it’s always beneficial for a student to add to their supply of vocabulary words.

At Veritas Prep, we teach our students how to prepare for analytical writing. GRE test-takers who study with us get the tools and confidence they need to write high-scoring essays. Each of our online GRE tutors earned an impressive score on the exam – this means we have the inside track on the analytical writing section, as well as every other section of the test! We teach students practical strategies that allow them to show off their essay-writing skills on the GRE. Contact our offices to sign up for one of our effective GRE prep classes 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!

Prove That You’re Ready for College by Taking AP Classes

AP CoursesYou know when parents say things like, “If Riley and Maya jumped off a cliff, would you?” Of course you wouldn’t – you just want to be allowed to (take public transportation alone, go to a concert, etc.) like Riley and Maya. Well, AP classes are definitely something you want to be doing if Riley and Maya are doing them – and this time, your parents will agree. If you are applying to competitive colleges, you can’t afford to be the only applicant without AP classes on your transcript.

What are AP classes?
AP classes are essentially “high school classes on steroids”. By taking AP classes, you’re showing college admissions officers that you can perform at a higher level than the average student at your school, and that you are ready for the big show – college.

For example, you can take a standard high school US History class and become really annoyed with concepts like tariffs and accept that the British are pretty lame. Or, you can challenge yourself by taking AP European History. The subject matter will be more in-depth and you will become an avid tea drinker in order to fully immerse yourself in the European way (plus, you may need the tea to stay up late studying).

AP classes come with a specially trained teacher, increased critical thinking, and more work. If you perform well, it also means a higher-than-4.0 GPA and a more impressive college application.

What are AP exams?
Because AP classes are designed to be on par with college classes, you can take official AP exams offered by The College Board that will prove you should earn real college credit for your studies. If you’re taking AP classes, these exams are imperative because they can allow you to possibly bypass general education courses in college.

Essentially, AP classes will save you money and free up time to volunteer for worthy causes  – at least this is what you will say on your application. In reality, you will probably use your free time to nap.

AP exams are scored on a one to five scale. Aim to score at least a four if you are planning to apply to competitive colleges. Fun fact: you are able to take AP exams without having been enrolled in their respective AP classes, so even if your school does not offer AP courses, you can still study up on a particular subject to take its AP exam.

Will all colleges accept my AP work as college credit?
Some will and some won’t. It is important to research each college you are applying to and find out exactly how AP classes and exams translate to that particular school.

Harvard, for example, does not offer college credit for AP classes on a one-to-one basis. However, Harvard does use AP exam results for course placement, as well as to give students the opportunity to apply for Advance Standing – meaning you can graduate in three years instead of the traditional four.

The University of California (UC) system, on the other hand, does count AP classes as elective college credits as long as you score a three or higher on the official exam (to be a competitive applicant, you should still aim to score a four or five). Additionally, UC schools will allow you to use AP classes to bypass introductory college courses.

What if my high school doesn’t offer AP classes?
Some high schools offer only a few AP classes while others may offer none. College admissions officers review your transcript while also evaluating what academic opportunities you had at your high school, so they will know whether you were actually able to take AP courses or not.

Even if your high school doesn’t offer AP classes, you can still show admissions officers that you’re ready for college-level work by enrolling in courses at your local community college. And if transportation is an issue, many community colleges offer courses online.

What about IB courses?
The International Baccalaureate (IB) program is offered at schools worldwide, though it is not nearly as popular in the United States as it is in other countries. Like AP classes, the IB coursework is more rigorous than standard high school classwork, and by scoring well on an IB exam, you can earn college credit and/or advanced placement. You can learn more about IB courses here.

So I need to prepare for AP exams and the SAT/ACT?
Basically, yes. Aside from studying for these exams, however, you also need to do well in your other schoolwork and still have time for extracurricular activities, sports and prom. Fortunately, Veritas Prep is here to help you prepare for your exams and consult you on your time management.

Veritas Prep college consultants and tutors can work with you to create an in-depth timeline and help you plan class schedules so that you are taking all the right steps during your high school career. Riley and Maya have already signed up!

Do you need help with your college applications? 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!

GRE Data Interpretation Prep Tips

books_stackedOne of the three parts of the GRE is the Quantitative Reasoning section. This section includes questions that involve geometry, algebra, and basic arithmetic. It also challenges students with questions on data interpretation. GRE test-takers must examine a collection of data in order to answer these questions. Find out more about the data interpretation questions on the GRE here and learn some helpful tips on how to arrive at the correct answers. With our help, you can do your best on the test!

Data Interpretation Questions on the GRE
On the GRE, data interpretation problems feature many types of graphs, charts, diagrams, and tables. There are several questions that accompany each visual expression of data. The questions then delve into the different types of data revealed in the illustration. These math problems measure a student’s ability to understand and interpret the information shown on a graph or chart. Not surprisingly, students who are familiar with many types of graphs and charts are likely to perform well on these questions.

Tips for Answering GRE Data Interpretation Questions
One helpful tip to use when solving data interpretation problems is to take 30 seconds or so to review the information in the graph, chart, table, or diagram. Be on the lookout for measurements, amounts, units, or other labels that can help in the process of interpreting the data. Also, look at what is being calculated – one graph may use percentages to convey data, while another uses dollar figures. This brief review of the details on a graph or chart can help guide a student as they begin to consider the questions that follow.

Another tip is to estimate the numbers found in a chart or diagram in order to arrive at the correct answer. In some cases, amounts and other statistics may not be conveyed in round numbers – coming up with an estimate can lead a student to the correct answer. Eliminating answer options that are obviously wrong is another useful tip for students. This can be done after a student mentally predicts the answer. Narrowing down the number of possible answers can make GRE interpretation questions seem more manageable.

After choosing an answer, it’s a good idea for a student to think about whether the answer fits logically with the data that has been presented. If not, a student may want to mark the question and return to it later on in the test. Spending too much time on one puzzling question can prevent students from finishing the Quantitative Reasoning section in the allotted amount of time. Plus, it can help to take a few minutes to think about a question before approaching it for the second time.

Studying for the Data Interpretation Questions on the GRE
Completing a set of practice math problems is the best way to prep for the data interpretation questions in the Quantitative Reasoning section. A practice test gives students the opportunity to sample the types of data interpretation questions that they will encounter on the actual test. Also, the results of a practice test allow students to see where they need to improve.

Becoming familiar with different types of graphs, diagrams, and charts is another way to prepare for data interpretation questions on the GRE. GRE interpretation questions may contain bar graphs, line graphs, box plots, scatter plots, and circle graphs along with others. Having knowledge of these figures will give a student the tools they need to interpret any set of data, regardless of how it’s presented.

At Veritas Prep, we provide expert tutoring to students who are preparing for the GRE. Our professional instructors have all earned high scores on the exam, which means they are uniquely qualified to help students prepare for the test. We offer online and in-person courses with which students can get the tools they need to ace data interpretation questions. Our instructors are there to answer students’ questions and give them some encouragement along the way.

We are proud to guide students toward their best scores on questions that involve data interpretation. GRE test-takers can rely on our tutoring services to assist them in preparing for these questions, along with all of the others on the exam. At Veritas Prep, we combine superb tutoring with excellent study resources to provide students with top-quality GRE preparation. Contact our offices 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!

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

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

What does that mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Brian Galvin.

How to Improve Your GMAT Verbal Score

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dedicate More Time to Outside Reading
Spending some of your free time reading financial magazines and newspapers can help you boost your score on the Verbal section. Reading these materials gives you the opportunity to practice the same skills you’ll use on Reading Comprehension questions. Also, it helps you get into the habit of becoming an active reader and drawing conclusions as you go. In addition, reading financial publications adds to your overall knowledge of the business world.

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

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

GMAT Math Help: Understanding and Solving Combinatorics Problems

StudentStudents who are taking the GMAT are going to encounter combinatorics problems. If you are a little rusty on your math topics, you may be asking, “What is combinatorics?” Combinatorics has to do with counting and evaluating the possibilities within a scenario that involve various amounts of people or things. Learn more about GMAT combinatorics questions and how to arrive at the right answers to be better prepared for the test.

Picture a certain number of people or objects. Permutations are the possible arrangements that those people or objects can be in. One of the things you have to decide when looking at combinatorics problems is whether order is an important factor. If order is important in a problem, then the answer has to do with permutations. If order is not important in a problem, then the answer deals with combinations.

For example, say you line up five postcards from different cities on a tabletop. You may wonder how many different orders you can put these postcards in. Another way to say that would be, “How many different permutations can I make with these five postcards?” To figure out this problem, you would need the help of an equation: 5! = (5) (4) (3) (2) (1) = 120. The exclamation point in the formula is a symbol that means “factorial.”

When working on combinatorics questions that deal with combinations, the order/arrangement of items is not important. For example, say that you have eight books and you want to know how many ways you can group three of those books on a library shelf. You could plug numbers into the three places in this formula to figure out the answer: (8) (7) (6) = 336 ways. This is the slot method of solving a combination problem.

Combinations With a Large Amount of Numbers
You will quickly find yourself needing combinatorics help if you try to count up a lot of numbers in one combination problem on the GMAT. Furthermore, you’ll use a lot of valuable test time with this counting method. Knowing the formula for combinations can help you to find the solution to a problem in a much shorter amount of time. The formula is nCr = n!/r!(n-r)! Here, n is the total number of options, r is the number of options chosen, and ! is the symbol for factorial.

Preparing for Applied Combinatorics Questions on the GMAT
One of the most effective ways of preparing for applied combinatorics questions is to take practice tests and review the various steps of problems. You want to get into the habit of approaching a problem by asking yourself whether order is a factor in a problem. This will help you determine whether a problem deals with permutations or combinations. Then, you can start to attack a problem from the right angle.

In addition, it’s important to time yourself when taking a practice Quantitative test. Though there are not many of these problems on the test, you have to get into the habit of spending only a certain amount of minutes on each problem so you don’t run out of test time before finishing.

We have a program of study at Veritas Prep that prepares you for questions on combinatorics as well as all of the other problems in the Quantitative section. We instruct you on how to approach test questions instead of just coaching you on how to memorize facts. Pair up with one of our skilled instructors at Veritas Prep and you will be studying with someone who scored in the 99th percentile on the GMAT. We believe that in order to perform at your best on the GMAT, you have to learn from a first-rate instructor! Our instructors can work through a combinatorics tutorial with you to determine what your strengths and weaknesses are in this branch of math. Then, we give you strategies that help you to improve.

For your convenience, we offer both in-person and online GMAT prep courses. We recognize that professionals in the business world have busy schedules, so we provide several study options to fit your life. When it comes to the topic of combinatorics, GMAT tips, instruction, and encouragement, we are your test prep experts. Contact us today and let us know how we can help you achieve your top GMAT score!

Want to learn more about our GMAT prep courses and how you can get a competitive edge when focusing your GMAT studies? Attend one of our upcoming free Live-Online GMAT Strategy Sessions. And be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

How to Use Units Digits to Avoid Doing Painful Calculations on the GMAT

StudentDuring the first session of each new class I teach, we do a quick primer on the utility of units digits. Imagine I want to solve 130,467 * 367,569. Without a calculator, we are surely entering a world of hurt. But we can see almost instantaneously what the units digit of this product would be.

The units digit of 130,467 * 367,569 would be the same as the units digit of 7*9, as only the units digits of the larger numbers are relevant in such a calculation. 7*9 = 63, so the units digit of 130,467 * 367,569 is 3. This is one of those concepts that is so simple and elegant that it seems too good to be true.

And yet, this simple, elegant rule comes into play on the GMAT with surprising frequency.

Take this question for example:

If n is a positive integer, how many of the ten digits from 0 through 9 could be the units digit of n^3?

A) three
B) four
C) six
D) nine
E) ten

Surely, you think, the solution to this question can’t be as simple as cubing the easiest possible numbers to see how many different units digits result. And yet that’s exactly what we’d do here.

1^3 = 1

2^3 = 8

3^3 = 27 à units 7

4^3 = 64 à units 4

5^3 = ends in 5 (Fun fact: 5 raised to any positive integer will end in 5.)

6^3 = ends in 6 (Fun fact: 6 raised to any positive integer will end in 6.)

7^3 = ends in 3 (Well 7*7 = 49. 49*7 isn’t that hard to calculate, but only the units digit matters, and 9*7 is 63, so 7^3 will end in 3.)

8^3 = ends in 2 (Well, 8*8 = 64, and 4*8 = 32, so 8^3 will end in 2.)

9^3 = ends in 9 (9*9 = 81 and 1 * 9 = 9, so 9^3 will end in 9.)

10^3 = ends in 0

Amazingly, when I cube all the integers from 1 to 10 inclusive, I get 10 different units digits. Pretty neat. The answer is E.

Of course, this question specifically invoked the term “units digit.” What are the odds of that happening? Maybe not terribly high, but any time there’s a painful calculation, you’d want to consider thinking about the units digits.

Take this question, for example:

A certain stock exchange designates each stock with a one, two or three letter code, where each letter is selected from the 26 letters of the alphabet. If the letters may be replaced and if the same letters used in a different order constitute a different code, how many different stocks is it possible to uniquely designate with these codes? 

A) 2,951
B) 8,125
C) 15,600
D) 16,302
E) 18,278 

Conceptually, this one doesn’t seem that bad.

If I wanted to make a one-letter code, there’d be 26 ways I could do so.

If I wanted to make a two-letter code, there’d be 26*26 or 26^2 ways I could do so.

If I wanted to make a three-letter code, there’d be 26*26*26, or 26^3 ways I could so.

So the total number of codes I could make, given the conditions of the problem, would be 26 + 26^2 + 26^3. Hopefully, at this point, you notice two things. First, this arithmetic will be deeply unpleasant to do.  Second, all of the answer choices have different units digits!

Now remember that 6 raised to any positive integer will always end in 6. So the units digit of 26 is 6, and the units digit of 26^2 is 6 and the units digit of 26^3 is also 6. Therefore, the units digit of 26 + 26^2 + 26^3 will be the same as the units digit of 6 + 6 + 6. Because 6 + 6 + 6 = 18, our answer will end in an 8. The only possibility here is E. Pretty nifty.

Takeaway: Painful arithmetic can always be avoided on the GMAT. When calculating large numbers, note that we can quickly find the units digit with minimal effort. If all the answer choices have different units digits, the question writer is blatantly telegraphing how to approach this problem.

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

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

SAT Tip of the Week: Effective Time Management for the New SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullStudents planning to take the new SAT may be wondering about the time management aspect of the test – will they have enough time to finish all of the questions in each section? Take a look at the breakdown of time allotted for each section of the test and find out what you can do to reduce the amount of time you spend on each SAT question:

A Look at the Various Sections on the New SAT

The new SAT timing breakdown is different from the current SAT. Test time, length, and content have been adjusted to meet the goals of the new standard. Students now have 65 minutes to complete the reading section, 35 minutes to finish the writing section, 80 minutes for the math section, and 50 minutes for the optional essay. The total time for the new SAT is approximately 180 minutes.

Completing the Writing and Language Section

According to this SAT time breakdown, students have just 35 minutes to complete the writing and language section. One effective step students can take to make sure they complete every question in this section is to take several timed practice tests. If a student runs out of time during a practice test, they have the opportunity to make some time-saving adjustments. Plus, working through practice tests helps students to establish a rhythm that allows them to finish every question.

One tip to reduce the time spent on each question is to skim the question as well as the answer options before reading the passage. By doing this, students are able to hone in on the correct answer and save valuable SAT writing time. especially when several questions are related to a single passage.

Another tip is to reread the sentence that contains the word in question. For instance, some questions require students to choose the short phrase that fits best in a sentence. Looking at the sentence as a whole instead of just the answer options can help a student to find the one that makes the most sense.

Finishing the Math Section

In the SAT time schedule, the math section consumes the largest portion of time. There are 20 questions that students must work out without a calculator and 38 questions that can be solved with a calculator. The SAT time breakdown for the math section allows students approximately one minute and 25 seconds per non-calculator question, and one minute and 45 seconds for each calculator-approved question. This breakdown of minutes and seconds gives students an idea of how quickly they need to work. Along with taking timed practice tests to work on their speed, a student can save valuable minutes by skipping challenging problems and returning to work on them later.

Finishing the Critical Reading Section

In the SAT time schedule, the critical reading section is the second longest in duration: 65 minutes. Students sometimes become anxious about their timing on the critical reading section due to the lengthy passages. But several questions on the test may relate to a single passage.

Taking timed practice tests helps students to pinpoint the types of questions that puzzle them. During a practice test, it’s a good idea for students to put a mark next to questions that prove difficult. One student may find that they are stumped by questions relating to how an author conveys an idea, while another student needs to work on identifying context clues in a passage. Once students are able to identify stumbling blocks, they can prep for the test by strengthening those skills.

Tips for Writing the SAT Essay

The new SAT allows students 50 minutes to complete the optional essay. Students may want to go with the standard five-paragraph format so they can include all of the necessary evidence in their essay. After reading the prompt, it’s a good idea to use some of the test time to create a rough outline and jot down pieces of evidence to include in specific paragraphs. Outlines are valuable resources, especially if a student loses their train of thought.

Our professional tutors at Veritas Prep stand ready to help you with time management as well as any other aspect of the new SAT. We offer both online and in-person SAT prep courses. Contact our offices today!

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

SAT Tip of the Week: 5 Steps to Increase Your Speed

SAT Tip of the Week - FullMany adults still have stress dreams in which they are running out of time on a timed test (How unfortunate that so many cannot even escape this dread in their sleep!). I have personally had the unfortunate experience of waking up in a cold sweat after dreaming of a clock winding down to zero as I have pages of questions left unanswered.

The SAT is a beast of a timed test and many students have a hard time determining how to manage their time while taking this exam. Whether you are taking the old version of the exam, or the new format, there are a number of ways that you can increase the your pace on the SAT:

1) Practice in a Timed Setting

It is surprising how many students sit down for the SAT having never actually timed themselves on any full SAT sections. Doing SAT practice problems is great, I will never chastise anyone for doing these, but there is simply no substitute for replicating the actual timed conditions of the SAT. You don’t have to take a full length timed SAT every week; you don’t have to be a hero! Simply do a timed section when you feel comfortable with the format. Work until you run out of time and mark the questions attempted and skipped.

After the time is up, go back and finish up the other problems so you have a chance to attempt all the problems even if your time management is still being developed. Being prepared for the SAT is imperative to being able to use time effectively on the test day, and part of preparation is knowing what twenty five minutes feels like and what spending too much time on one question feels like. There is no substitute for practice.

2) Create a General Template for an Essay

The time spent figuring out how to structure an essay on the SAT is time wasted. This may sound counter intuitive as structure is a big part of what the SAT graders are evaluating, but it is this reason exactly that makes the structure of the essay the first thing that can be systematized and recycled. If you are taking the old format of the SAT, use a little time to brainstorm examples. Essentially all a brainstorm consists of is the position on the question and the examples that will be used in the argument.

If you are taking the new format of the SAT, use the time to identify stylistic elements, logical elements, and evidence used in the document. The new format is an analysis essay, but its set up is the as the previous test same. You simply need to set up an introduction with a clear thesis that the document is effective or ineffective because of the three elements listed above. Read the essay and mark any sections that fall into those three categories – once this work is done, the essay is practically written. All a student must do now is plug these specifics into the general essay template and the essay quickly writes itself. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the clock in this section as it is easy to get behind (you should start writing by the 15 minute mark on the new format).

3) Answer Questions From the Section of the Text Being Referenced

The answer to all reading test questions are in the passage. Anyone who has had me as a tutor is likely tire of hearing that mantra, but it is as true as the sky is blue. It is not simply that the answer is in the passage though, but it is also the case that the answer is in the part of the passage referenced by the question. If the question asks for what the author is doing in a specific few lines it is best to search for the answer in those lines (and the lines directly before and after those lines). The biggest waste of time on the reading section in either format of the test is random searching of the passages. Mark the passage so you know which sections deal with what general topic. By simply writing one word by a paragraph you can save yourself a fair bit of time searching through the passage.

4) Skip Hard Math Questions IMMEDIATELY

For most students who wish to achieve SAT success at the highest level, all questions will need to be attempted, but should a student encounter a question that is difficult for them to answer, the student should skip the question immediately and come back to it later. The SAT gives equal weight to every question, so spending six minutes on one question and coming up with no answer not only hurts a student on that question, but also on every question that follows. A student should attempt to answer every question that they can, so if the student does not even get to four questions at the end of a section , they have no way of knowing if they would have been able to more easily answer one of the final questions.

The SAT questions are presented in order of difficulty, but difficulty is relative. What’s hard for one person might be simple for another, so do not waste time being baffled by a question. Be baffled, then if you have answered all the questions that you feel you can approach easily, go back to the questions where you didn’t know how to start and do SOMETHING. Write out formulas, label givens, eliminate answer choices that don’t make sense. Sometimes, doing the first step will lead to others and an impossible question will become possible.

5) Do NOT Focus On The Time

Wait, didn’t you just say to make sure to keep an eye on the clock? A little glance at the clock is fine, but you should be so used to the timing of the test that you feel whether or not you are spending too long on a question. If you realize that you are running out of time, don’t panic! Do your best to complete the questions you can with accuracy and take a glance at the questions you have left so you can attempt those that seem possible to complete quickly. Perhaps you will get one or two more questions correct, instead of getting all the remaining questions wrong because you rushed through them.

The biggest thing a student can do on the day of the test to make sure that they are pacing themselves properly is to practice often in advance and to breathe! The stress of the day can make people jittery and poorly focused, but preparation and breathing help to eliminate these problems and prepare students to rock the SAT. So what are you waiting for? Get out that timer and start practicing!

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

David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.