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As a GMAT instructor, I get asked a lot of questions about the exam. Most of these questions are about what can be done to prepare for the exam and what to concentrate on, but one of the simplest questions I get asked all the time is simply: “Is the GMAT hard?” Sadly, the answer is not very clean cut for a given prospective student, but I’ve spent enough time thinking about this test that I now have a definite answer that I think captures the heart of what is being tested. My answer is simply this:

The GMAT is not hard, the GMAT is tricky.

What is the difference between hard and tricky, exactly? (Good question! I’m glad you asked). The material covered on the GMAT is all high school level stuff, from algebra to geometry to using proper grammar. No university-level exposure is assumed or required to score highly on the GMAT. The reason for this is to put students on as even a footing as possible. If student A had spent the last four years studying differential equations while student B was working on a degree in biology, student A would do much better on a differential equations test by virtue of their exposure to the subject. By choosing high school level topics, the playing field is as fair as possible for everyone.

However, there is a downside to choosing material from high school: the material is not that difficult. One of my key pieces of advice on the GMAT is to (re-)learn the multiplication table, which you’re exposed to for the first time in the fourth grade at about age 10. Sadly, a lifetime of dependency on calculators and cash registers has ensured that most people don’t usually execute these types of calculations in their everyday lives, and therefore forget the simple concepts they learned many years before (Use or lose it).

The GMAT therefore has to offer difficult questions based on material that’s not inherently too difficult. What are some easy ways to make simple material more difficult? The first one is the timing aspect, so you have a limited amount of time to answer the questions, but moreover you feel the pressure of time running out on you constantly. If you had unlimited time to answer the questions, most people would score significantly higher on the GMAT, so managing your time is paramount to getting a top score.

Another way to make easy material more difficult is to remove the crutches most people use to avoid having to actually solve the question. That’s why there are no calculators in the quant section of the GMAT, although every conceivable situation in business school will have a calculator within your reach. This opens up a lot of space to make questions more difficult by just dramatically upping the math. Solving 33 + 32 + 31 can easily be done by just replacing the abstract algebra with the actual numbers. Solving 39 + 38 + 37 without a calculator is a decidedly more difficult task. The math is as complicated, but the size of the numbers makes the problem significantly harder to solve.

This is the same reason as to why there’s no spell check on the AWA. With a spell check, it’s a lot harder to differentiate between someone who has a mastery of the English language and someone who can just rely on the red underline (or my bane: the green underline). On the IR, a calculator is provided because the goal there is to interpret the data in a speedy way, so the omission of the spell check or the calculator is entirely by design. It also forces you to have to be cleverer in your approach. This is what the GMAT is looking for: an approach less dependent on brute force and more focused on understanding the situation presented.

To highlight these elements, let’s look at a very simple question that is nonetheless difficult to solve without a calculator:

What is the square root of 239,121?

(A) 476

(B) 489

(C) 497

(D) 511

(E) 524

The square root of 239,121 represents the number that, squared, will give you 239,121. With a calculator this problem is plug-and-play, and at most it will take 45 seconds to try all five combinations and see which answer is correct. Without a calculator to do all the heavy lifting, we have to get a little smarter.

The brute force approach will still work. Simply multiply 476 by 476 and find the product. If it is not 239,121, we rinse and repeat for all five numbers. This technique does work, but it will take a significant amount of time as it ignores the hints the exam is giving you to solve the question quickly.

A great concept to utilize here is the idea of the unit digit. If I multiply any two numbers, the unit digit will simply be the product of the unit digits of the two numbers. This is because there is no carry over from other positions possible. Hence, here we need a number that gives a unit digit of 1 when we multiply it by itself. Going through each option, we can eliminate A (6×6), C (7×7) and E (4×4). This should make a lot of intuitive sense because any even number multiplied by itself will give you another even number, so answers A and E were never in the running. Answer choice C could have worked, but 7×7 must yield a unit digit of 9, so it cannot possibly work.

Only two answer choices remain: 489 and 511. Unfortunately, they both give unit digits of 1, so we need a different strategy to determine which answer is correct. This is where the concept of order of magnitude can save us the trouble of actually having to calculate the numbers. It’s worth noting that at this point multiplying one of the numbers will either give the correct answer or the incorrect answer. Either option solves the question, and is a legitimate way of getting the correct answer. However, knowing that 5 x 5 gives 25 means that 500 x 500 must give 25 followed by four 0’s, or 250,000. Since our number is a little below that, we know the answer must be smaller than 500, but not by very much. Answer choice D is thus too big to be the correct answer, and answer choice B must be correct.

There are many questions like this one that can be solved without having to do any math whatsoever, simply by knowing how to apply mathematical properties. This is what makes the GMAT tricky. The questions will not ask for very difficult math to be executed, but figuring out the correct way to get the correct answer is never a question of blindly attacking the problem with a brute force approach. This is why there is a timing component on the GMAT: To avoid reliance on brute forcing the answer (also to allow multiple tests to be scheduled in the same day). Focusing your study approach on the how, rather than the what, will help you maximize your score.

An apropos comparison is to think of the GMAT as an industrial strength lock. If you try to force your way in, the resistance will be significant. However if you know the combination to the lock, it will open easily. The key (pun intended) is to ascertain how to approach each question and work on the skillful approach instead of the forceful approach. Best of all, inside the safe is a ticket to the business school of your choice. Your job is to find the best way inside the safe. The lock mechanism is designed to keep you out, but like a password that is just “password”, it only appears difficult until you crack the safe.

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

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Ever since I saw their first concert freshman year, I wanted to join my high school jazz band. I loved the sound and the energy the band had on stage; they looked like they were having a great time. However, I was a classic AP track student with a packed schedule; I managed to squeeze in marching/concert band first period, but for my first two years I just had to watch them play from the balcony where the concert band sat.

Then, at the end of my sophomore year, I found out I had a scheduling conflict, and I needed another class 6th period, exactly when jazz band was. Well, I decided it was too good of a chance to pass up, so I told my academic advisor to put me in. His reaction was cautionary. He reminded me of all the other students I would be competing with and how they’d be taking more APs than me. He said to think it over and talk to my parents about it. Well, discouraged, I went home and talked to my parents.

They told me to forget about what he said; if I wanted to play jazz, I should. I emailed my advisor and told him to put me in. So I picked up my tenor sax and started practicing and listening, and I absolutely loved it. I had a great time playing with the band, and I still play now.

So when it came time to apply to schools, I took this supposed weakness in my application and owned it. At this point, I had done jazz band for a year and a half and had been drum major of my marching band. I conveyed my passion for music in my application; I even wrote my supplementary essay about the dimension of experience jazz music opened for me.

I’m now attending Georgetown University, and after I was accepted I received a letter from the dean congratulating me and noting that one of the things that really caught their attention was my involvement in music. So there it is, one of my biggest selling points was a non-academic class that I took because I wanted to, not some AP whatever.

One important thing that I have learned about the college application process is that one extra AP class is not necessarily going to make your application. This is not to say that studying isn’t important (I did very well academically), but once you’ve cleared a certain level, top tier schools are really just looking for someone who interests them.

My mother once came up with an interesting analogy: it’s kind of like a dinner party. They don’t want to let anyone in who is below a certain standard, but after that look for people who would make the most interesting guests at a dinner party. Well this person invented something, this person studied in Tanzania, etc. So by all means keep up the hard work, but don’t sacrifice things you love to do (they just might come in handy). Find something you are passionate about and stick with it. You can get good grades and have fun at the same time.

Eamon Cagney is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in Washington DC. He did a lot of private tutoring and teaching through different organizations in high school, and he was very involved music organizations on his high school campus. Currently, Eamon is studying Computer Science at Georgetown University.

ForumBlogs - GMAT Club’s latest feature blends timely Blog entries with forum discussions. Now GMAT Club Forums incorporate all relevant information from Student, Admissions blogs, Twitter, and other sources in one place. You no longer have to check and follow dozens of blogs, just subscribe to the relevant topics and forums on GMAT club or follow the posters and you will get email notifications when something new is posted. Add your blog to the list! and be featured to over 300,000 unique monthly visitors

It was just 18 months ago when we shook up the college test prep space by announcing Veritas Prep SAT 2400. Since then, thousands of high school students and their parents have discovered what makes Veritas Prep special when it comes to tackling standardized tests: The best instructors rigorously applying a proven system for success that any student can learn.

Now, our march on the college prep space continues with the launch of Veritas Prep ACT 36. Nearly a year ago our work began, and it started with consulting with leading school districts and education leadership programs such as University of Michigan’s Graduate School of Education to design the perfect learning environment for high school students wishing to excel on the ACT. With multiple Master of Education degree holders on our development team, we identified the three things that every student needs to excel on the ACT: Skill, Strategy, and Performance.

To keep the energy level high in the classroom, our program is segmented into three sections. First, we cover the essential Skills necessary to navigate the content in every ACT question. Next, we introduce a Veritas Prep ACT 36 strategy to simplify the processing requirements on tougher test questions. Finally, students have a chance to synthesize the skills and strategies they’ve just learned on real ACT sections, which are subsequently reviewed in detail with an instructor who has scored in the 99th percentile on the real ACT.

Excelling on the ACT takes work, and you can’t work if you’re not getting enough face time with your instructor. While most leading ACT prep companies offer just 18 hours of classroom time, ACT 36 offers 36 hours of classroom time. This allows us to start at a more elementary level (ensuring that you will indeed master the basic content you need to know, but then also progress to a much more advanced level than what Kaplan, The Princeton Review, and others allow. If you really want an ACT score in the 30s, this is how you do it.

Veritas Prep ACT 36 is available as an in-person course, a live online course, and private one-on-one tutoring. Take a look at our ACT prep programs and see how our team can help you on the ACT starting today!

ForumBlogs - GMAT Club’s latest feature blends timely Blog entries with forum discussions. Now GMAT Club Forums incorporate all relevant information from Student, Admissions blogs, Twitter, and other sources in one place. You no longer have to check and follow dozens of blogs, just subscribe to the relevant topics and forums on GMAT club or follow the posters and you will get email notifications when something new is posted. Add your blog to the list! and be featured to over 300,000 unique monthly visitors

March has traditionally been “Hip Hop Month” in the GMAT Tip of the Week space, so with March only hours away and winter weather gripping the world, let’s round up to springtime and start Hip Hop March a few hours early, this time borrowing a page from USC-Marshall Mathers. There are plenty of GMAT lessons to learn from Eminem. He’s a master, as are the authors of GMAT Critical Reasoning, of “precision in language“. He flips sentence structures around to create more interesting wordplay, a hallmark of Sentence Correction authors. But what can one of the world’s greatest vocal wordsmiths teach you about quant?

On his latest album, Eminem talks about feeling like a “Rap God”. And while that track – 6,077 words in 6 minutes, or about 18 Reading Comprehension passages’ worth of words – is more dense than anything you’ll have to read for the GMAT, it supplies a few nuggets of wisdom that can dramatically increase your score, most notably this lyric in which he mocks other MCs who have accused him of being too mainstream, too pop:

“I don’t know how to make songs like that

I don’t know what words to use”

Let me know when it occurs to you

While I’m ripping any one of these verses that versus you

Now, while Em is mocking other emcees, he could very well be mimicking the way that the GMAT would mock *you* on certain problems. The GMAT is designed in large part to be a “quantitative reasoning” test as opposed to a “math” test, and leads a lot of students to stare at problems nervously saying, essentially, “I don’t know how to solve problems like that; I don’t know what tools to use”. All the while, the 75-minute section clock ticks down and the GMAT sits back, smirking, thinking “let me know when it occurs to you how to solve this problem that versus you”.

In other words, difficult GMAT problems are often difficult because people waste a lot of time sitting scared not knowing how to get started. And in many of those cases, the way to get started is to go much more “mainstream” than you’d think. Consider this example:

With # and & each representing different digits in the problem below, the difference between #&& and ## is 667. What is the value of &?

#&&

-##

667

(A) 3

(B) 4

(C) 5

(D) 8

(E) 9

Now, many would look at this problem and think “I don’t know how to solve problems like that…”, as it’s not a classic “Algebra” problem, but it’s not a straight-up “Subtraction” problem, either. It uses the common GMAT themes of Abstraction and Reverse-Engineering to test you conceptually to see how you think critically to solve problems. And in true Eminem-mocking form, the key to a complicated-looking problem like this is a lot more mainstream than it is advanced. You have to just get started playing with the numbers, testing possibilities for # and & and seeing what you learn from it.

When GMAT students lament that “I don’t know what tools to use” to start on a tough problem, they’re often missing this piece of GMAT wisdom – *that’s* the point. You’re supposed to look at this with some trial-and-error like you would in a business meeting, throwing some ideas out and eliminating those that definitely won’t work so that you can spend some more time on the ones that have a good chance. In this case, throw out a couple ideas for #. Could # be 5? If it were, then you’d have a number in the 500s and you’d subtract something from it. There’s no way to get to 667 if you start smaller than that and only subtract, so even with pretty limited information you can guarantee that # has to be 6 or bigger.

And by the same logic, try a value like 9 for #. That would give you 900-and-something, and the most that ## could be is 99 (the largest two-digit number), which would mean that your answer would still be greater than 800. You need a number for # that allows you to stay in the 667 range, meaning that # has to be 6 or 7. That means that you’re working with:

6&& – 66 = 667

or

7&& – 77 = 667

And just by playing with numbers, you’ve been able to take a very abstract problem and make it quite a bit more concrete. If you examine the first of those options, keep in mind that the biggest that & can be is 9, and that would leave you with:

699 – 66 = 633, demonstrating that even at the biggest possible value of &, if # = 6 you can’t get a big enough result to equal 667. So, again, by playing with numbers to find minimums and maximums, we’ve proven that the problem has to be:

7&& – 77 = 667, and now you can treat it just like an algebra problem, since the only unknown is now 7&&. Adding 77 to both sides, you get 7&& = 744, so the answer is 4.

More important than this problem, however, is the takeaway – GMAT problems are often designed to look abstract and to test math in a different “order” (here you had two unknowns to “start” the problem and were given the “answer”), and the exam does a masterful job of taking common concepts (this was a subtraction problem) and presenting them to look like something you’ve never seen. The most dangerous mindset you can have on the GMAT quant section is “I don’t know how to solve problems like this” or “I’ve never seen this before”, whereas the successful strategy is to take a look at what you’re given and at least try a few possibilities. With symbol problems (like this), sequence problems, numbers-too-large-to-calculate problems, etc., often the biggest key is to go a lot more mainstream than “advanced math” – try a few small numbers to test the relationship in the problem, and use that to narrow the range of possibilities, find a pattern, or learn a little more about the concept in the problem.

If your standard mindset on abstract-looking problems is “I don’t know how to solve problems like that”, both Em and the G-Em-A-T are right to chide you a bit mockingly, as that’s often the entire point of the problem, to reward those who are willing to try (the entrepreneurial, self-starter types) and “punish” those who won’t think beyond the process they’ve memorized. Even if you don’t become a GMAT God, if you follow some of Eminem’s lessons you can at least find yourself saying “Hi, my name is…” over and over again at b-school orientation.

ForumBlogs - GMAT Club’s latest feature blends timely Blog entries with forum discussions. Now GMAT Club Forums incorporate all relevant information from Student, Admissions blogs, Twitter, and other sources in one place. You no longer have to check and follow dozens of blogs, just subscribe to the relevant topics and forums on GMAT club or follow the posters and you will get email notifications when something new is posted. Add your blog to the list! and be featured to over 300,000 unique monthly visitors

I came across a discussion on one of our questions where the respondents were split over whether it is a strengthen question or weaken! Mind you, both sides had many supporters but the majority was with the incorrect side. You must have read the write up on ‘support’ in your Veritas Prep CR book where we discuss how question stems having the word ‘support’ could indicate either strengthen or inference questions. I realized that we need a write up on the word ‘suspect’ too so here goes.

First let me give you the question stem of that question:

Which of the following, if true, supplies the best reason to suspect that the proposed new course will increase interest in the metropolitan cooking academy?

So do we have to find a reason which indicates that the new course WILL increase interest in the academy or do we have to find a reason that indicates that the new course WILL NOT increase interest in the academy? That is, is this a type of ‘strengthen’ question or the opposite – a ‘weaken’ question?

I would have expected most people to tag it as a strengthen question i.e. we are looking for a reason which indicates that the new course WILL increase interest in the academy but that is not the case. Many people get waylaid by the word ‘suspect’ and incorrectly tag it as a weaken question. Yes, suspect could mean ‘doubtful’ but just because the question stem has it, it doesn’t mean you have a weaken question at hand. Similar to the situation where the word ‘support’ in the question stem doesn’t necessarily imply that you have been given a strengthen question to deal with.

Let’s discuss various meanings of the word ‘suspect’ and how they are used (using merriam-webster.com):

Suspect can be used as a verb, noun or adjective. In our question stem, it is used as a verb and that’s what we will focus most on but let’s take up the other two briefly first.

SUSPECT (- NOUN) – one that is suspected; especially a person suspected of a crime

[*]One suspect has been arrested.[/*] [*]She is a possible suspect in connection with the kidnapping.[/*] [/list] SUSPECT (- ADJECTIVE) regarded or deserving to be regarded with suspicion

doubtful, questionable

[*]The room had a suspect odor.[/*] [*]Since she was carrying no cash or credit cards, her claim to the store’s detectives that she had intended to pay for the items was suspect.[/*] [/list] SUSPECT ( – VERB) – The verb suspect can be used in 3 different ways:

to imagine (one) to be guilty or culpable on slight evidence or without proof

For Example: He’s suspected in four burglaries.

2. to have doubts of: distrust

For Example: The fire chief suspects arson. I suspect his intentions.

3. to imagine to exist or be true, likely, or probable

For Example: I suspect it will rain.

Given a construction “I suspect A will happen”, which meaning will it have? In this case, it has the meaning of ‘imagine to be true’ or ‘think to be true’. There is absolutely no ambiguity here. When I ask “Which option supplies the best reason to suspect that the new course will increase interest in the academy?” you are definitely looking for the option that indicates that the new course WILL increase interest. Let me give you the whole question now. I am sure you will be able to solve it easily.

Question: The metropolitan cooking academy surveyed prospective students and found that students wanted a curriculum that focused on today’s healthy dining trends. In order to reverse the trend of declining interest in the school’s programs, administrators propose a series of new courses focused on cooking exotic species of fish, alternative grains such as quinoa, and organically produced vegetables.

Which of the following, if true, supplies the best reason to suspect that the proposed new course will increase interest in the metropolitan cooking academy?

(A) Cooking fish, grains, and vegetables relies on same culinary fundamentals as does the preparation of other ingredients.

(B) In the food and beverage industry, many employers no longer have time to train apprentices and therefore demand basic culinary skills from their new hires.

(C) Local producers in the area near the Metropolitan cooking academy are excellent sources of exotic fish and organic vegetables.

(D) Many other cooking schools have found a decline in the level of interest in their program.

(E) Many advocates of healthy dining stress the importance of including fish, grains and organically produced vegetables in one’s diet.

Solution: Let’s break down the argument:

Premises:

A survey found that students wanted a curriculum that focused on today’s healthy dining trends.

Administrators propose a series of new courses focused on cooking fish, alternative grains and organically produced vegetables

What will indicate that the new course will increase interest in the academy? If fish, grains and organic vegetables are considered ‘today’s healthy dining trends’, then probably the course will become popular. That is what option (E) says. Hence the answer is (E).

I suspect that the word suspect will not waylay any reader of this article anymore.

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!

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Hey all you Juniors! June 7th, 2014 is probably the best time for you to take SAT Subject Tests on the subjects you are taking this school year. Why wait until the fall, when you will have had all summer to forget the chemistry, biology, US History, or whatever other classes you are taking right now?

Besides, taking these exams now will allow you to apply early to schools that require Subject tests. The odds of getting in early decision or early action are often much greater than getting in regular decision. In 2012, the Ivies admitted 22% of early applicants vs. 8% or regular applicants, so it pays to be prepared!

So what are the SAT Subject Tests, and when are they administered? These are 1 hour long, content based tests. The subjects tested are: Literature, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, U.S. History, World History, Math Level 1 or 2, French, German, Spanish, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Not all language tests are available on all dates.You can take up to three SAT Subject tests on one test date. They are offered on the same dates as the SAT, but you cannot take both the SAT and the SAT Subject Tests on the same day. And what masochist would ever want to do that anyway?

Most top-tier colleges require 2 SAT Subject Tests in subjects of your choosing. Most top engineering schools require the Math 2 Subject Test, plus either Physics, Chemistry, or Biology. Check the websites of the schools you are applying to to make sure you are taking the right number and type of test.

These tests are very important! They make up roughly a third of the all-important “Academic Index” or AI number that top colleges use to rate you academically. Unless you’re a Rockefeller or Gates, this is the single most important piece of information on your entire college application.

All that said, June is a great time to take these tests on subjects you are currently studying. For those of you taking an AP exam in May, see if an SAT Subject Test is offered in that subject. AP tests are much longer and more rigorous than SAT Subject tests. If you spend all year studying hard and preparing for the AP exam, the SAT Subject Test will likely be a breeze, but not if you wait until the Fall and give yourself all Summer to forget! Besides this summer you want to be prepping for the October SAT.

AP Tests this year are May 5th-16th. Pick your three best subjects and spend May 17th – June 6th reviewing the material for these SAT Subject Tests. You can find free SAT Subject Tests practice exams on the College Board’s website at: https://sat.collegeboard.org/register/sat-subject-test-dates

As is true for learning anything, you are better off studying for one hour per day than for 7 hours one day. That’s just not how human being learn well.

There is almost no harm in taking these tests, other than the usual emotional anguish often associated with standardized testing. Using The College Board’s popular “Score Choice” feature, you can choose which test scores to send to which schools – after you see your score. Many schools will just pick your top 2 tests, but strong scores on 6 Subject Tests will leave a better impression than strong scores on 2 tests. Think about it like AP tests – would you rather have 10 AP 5s on your record or 2 AP 5s? Breadth is important!

Be aware that some colleges (eg Yale) do NOT accept score choice and will see ALL of your SAT and SAT Subject Tests you ever have taken in your entire life, including that one you took in 8th grade, just for practice…You can read more about Score Choice here: https://professionals.collegeboard.com/testing/sat-reasoning/scores/policy

Best of luck, and register for those June SAT Subject Tests right now!

ForumBlogs - GMAT Club’s latest feature blends timely Blog entries with forum discussions. Now GMAT Club Forums incorporate all relevant information from Student, Admissions blogs, Twitter, and other sources in one place. You no longer have to check and follow dozens of blogs, just subscribe to the relevant topics and forums on GMAT club or follow the posters and you will get email notifications when something new is posted. Add your blog to the list! and be featured to over 300,000 unique monthly visitors

In this series we return to classic movies to learn fundamental strategies for GMAT Success.

“A man and a woman meet aboard a luxury ocean liner. She already has a fiancé, but still the two fall in love. The ship sinks and the woman lives, but the man dies.”

So, one of the longest and yet most successful movies in history can be summed up in just three short sentences. Thirty-four words to tell the tale of the 1997 Oscar winner for “Best Picture.” At 3 hours and 14 minutes it was not the longest “best picture” in history; 1939’s “Gone with Wind” was nearly 4 hours.

Notice that in my summary above, I do not mention any names, any dates, or any numbers. Basically, I do not mention any of the specifics that people often focus on when reading a passage on the GMAT. This is because the details are easy to look up as you answer questions on reading comprehension. It is the executive summary that you need to be looking for as you read the passage.

What to NOT Focus On… Put the movie aside for a moment and imagine that the script for Titanic was a reading comprehension passage. What would be the easy things to notice and to quickly locate if you needed to? Firstly, anything capitalized. Proper names simply jump out at you. You would quickly find the name of the ship, the girl’s name “Rose,” and the boy’s name “Jack.” The fiancé’s name is the very fanciful “Caledon Hockley,” or “Cal” for short, I wonder if you remember that one?

The second thing that is easy to look up is any sort of number or date. The ship sailed on April 10, 1912 and struck an iceberg on April 15. The crew and passengers numbered 2224, of which more than 1500 died. The survivors were only in the water for 2 hours before the RMA Carpathia arrived to pick up 705 survivors. Unfortunately, the water temperature was only 28 degrees and maximum survival time was only 30 minutes. In fact only 13 people were pulled into the lifeboats despite the fact that the lifeboats could have held 500 more people. Do you see how easy it is to look back for these numbers? Don’t try to memorize them!

The third thing to not get caught up in is scientific terms and unfamiliar vocabulary. Now, the Titanic story does not involve lots of scientific terms, but even if it did you would not focus on those. They are not important to the executive summary and they are easy to spot. It is easy to spot capitalization, numbers, and “big words.” These are things that are best left for you to go back to find if a specific question asks about them.

What You Should Focus On… So what should you focus on when reading? What should make up your executive summary? If it is a scientific passage you have to make sure that you understand the theory. You need to be able to state the theory in simple terms. If there are two different ideas or authors make sure that you understand the differences and the similarities. In every case make sure that you can state the “plot” of the passage in a few words – as I did for the Titanic above.

Part of the Veritas Prep STOP technique is stopping at the end of each paragraph to make sure that you know what the main idea of that paragraph is. At the end of the entire passage you can run through the full STOP: S (scope) T (tone) O (organization) and P (purpose)

The Movie… And here is what you have been waiting for. Admit it, you know this scene and you love it!

David Newland has been teaching for Veritas Prep since 2006, and he won the Veritas Prep Instructor of the Year award in 2008. Students’ friends often call in asking when he will be teaching next because he really is a Veritas Prep and a GMAT rock star! Read more of his articles here.

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Bowdoin College, located in the coastal town of Brusnwick, Maine, is a small liberal arts college ranked #14 on the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings.The exclusive school boasts famous alumni such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Nathaniel Hawthorne. More recently, current assistant professor of computer science, Daniela Oliveira was awarded the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers by the White House for her research in computer security. This is an extraordinary honor for a small liberal arts college competing against large research universities.

Bowdoin was an all men’s college until 1971, and today offers the co-ed student body over 30 majors and eight interdisciplinary majors. The college’s philosophy is pushing students and faculty to take academic risks. Students are encouraged to make their educations a meaningful experience for themselves by integrating knowledge from disparate subjects and analyzing their connections. The focus is always forward-thinking and encouraging the individual to prepare to positively contribute to the world.

When you hear about the “living rooms” on campus, know they are referring to the eight houses that make up a portion of student campus residences. Incoming freshmen are all assigned to a house according to their floor in dormitories, a.k.a. the “bricks.” Houses offer freshmen outreach throughout the school year with small events like study breaks and dinners. They also sponsor film-screenings and other campus-wide activities. There is a selection process students must participate in to live in the houses that requires a commitment to the goals of the house. Off campus, students can go to Thomas Point Beach for an afternoon of frisbee or volleyball when the weather permits. As the weather turns cooler, a drive up the coast to check out the famed Maine lighthouses is a nice break from studies. During winter, bowling and ice skating are popular student activities.

Bowdoin is an NCAA Division III athletic program that plays in the New England Small College Athletic Conference. Within the conference, the real rivalry for Bowdoin is in football with Colby College and Bates College. The three colleges have played each other since the 1870s, which puts them among the ten oldest Division III college football rivalries in the nation. In 1965, they formed the CBB Championship. Playing each other one time during season, the team that beats the other two wins the championship. Although there have been a handful of three-way ties and one two-way tie, the Bowdoin Polar Bears are the winningest team in the CBB.

The Polar Bears, named after alumnus Robert Peary who was the first man to reach the North Pole, have another long-standing and arguably more intense rivalry with Colby College in hockey. This makes sense, since Maine is hockey country. The rivalry, which began in 1922, is so intense that it is listed among their college traditions, has been featured in a New York Times blog, and dictates what Bowdoin food services serve on game days to keep it from being thrown on the ice – no fish, for example.

On the women’s side of Polar Bear athletics, the women’s field hockey team are repeat national champions. By 2013, the team had claimed their fourth NCAA Division III title in seven years. Not only are they the winningest field hockey team in the New England Small College Athletic Conference, but they also boast a string of consecutive wins against non-conference teams that dates back to 2007. Female field hockey athletes looking for a great Division III liberal arts college will want to put Bowdoin at the top of their list.

Bowdoin College traditions are perhaps less spectacular and frequent than at some other colleges, but no less quirky. Ivies weekend began as Ivy Day in 1875 with the tradition of planting ivy accompanied by wacky student awards, music, and dancing. By 1975 all but the music and dancing had disappeared. During homecoming week, the social houses hold a wooden chair building competition where chairs are judged and a single winner is chosen; the losing chairs are thrown into a community bonfire. Senior Seven takes place during Senior Week and matches secret crushes anonymously on a website designed as the last chance to hook up with a fellow classmate before graduation. Bowdoin offers a great experience for those who favor a personalized approach in a small-town setting.

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This time of year, many applicants find themselves stuck in the waitlist process at one or more schools, which can be a very slow and painful waiting period. Not only are you competing for fewer and fewer seats, you are doing so against everyone on the waitlist all the way back from round one as well as any fresh, new applicants from the final rounds.

One thing applicants often want to know is how many people are on the waitlist at their particular school. Unfortunately, this is a black box and schools do not generally disclose an exact number of people who are waitlisted. Candidates on the waitlist may be admitted at any time, which makes the wait particularly painful, since unlike regular round admissions where there is a decision date or notification date, the waitlist candidates struggle with every day or week potentially being the day or week the phone will ring with an admission offer or a release from the waitlist.

In addition to being stressful for the waitlisted candidate, this also makes the number on the list fluctuate and difficult to track even for the schools themselves. When the pressure is too great, or when other offers are made from competing schools (or plans change), candidates and sometimes choose to remove their name from the waitlist at any point in the process. Therefore, the actual number of candidates on the waitlist can literally vary from day to day.

Most top schools’ Admissions Committees make a conscious decision to limit the number of applicants who are extended a place on the waitlist, so know that if you are on a waitlist, you are in good company with a relatively small number of fellow applicants, so it’s highly advisable to remain on the list if you are still interested in eventually being offered admission. Know that this offer can sometimes be extended very close to the start of the academic year. Because of yield fluctuations and changing plans of admitted students (particularly those who get offers from “better schools” at the last minute), there have been cases of admission being offered to waitlisted candidates as late as the day before classes begin.

Every year there is a last minute shuffle of the deck, as students jump ship for their dream school who comes calling at the 11th hour, which obviously opens up a slot wherever they had already accepted. Sure, they lose deposit money, but the chance to go where they really want makes it worth it. In my next post, I will discuss some things you can do while you sit it out on a waitlist.

Scott Bryant has over 25 years of professional post undergraduate experience in the entertainment industry as well as on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs. He served on the admissions committee at the Fuqua School of Business where he received his MBA and now works part time in retirement for a top tier business school. He has been consulting with Veritas Prep clients for the past six admissions seasons.

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Today the College Board, the organization behind the SAT, announced sweeping changes to the standardized exam that will launch in the spring of 2016. As College Board president David Coleman promised last year when he announced that a new SAT was coming, the changes are meant to make the SAT less “coachable” and to make it more relevant to what is taught in high school classrooms. The changes also make the SAT much more like the ACT (the SAT’s chief competitor), although you won’t see any mention of that in the College Board’s publicity announcements for the new SAT.

In the College Board’s own words, “The redesigned SAT will focus on the knowledge and skills that current research shows are most essential for college and career readiness and success. The exam will reflect the best of classroom work.”

The changes coming to the new SAT include:

The new SAT will still be offered as a paper-and-pencil test, but will also be made available as a computer-based test “at selected locations”

Points will no longer be deducted for incorrect answers

The new SAT will have three sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math, and the Essay.

The now-mandatory essay will become optional. While the current essay rewards students for making blatantly false assertions, the new one will require them to read a written passage and analyze how it constructs arguments and use evidence to make a point.

The old 1600 scaling score will return, and will be the sum of scores on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and the Math section. The essay will be scored separately.

The scope of the Math section will be narrowed to focus on three main areas: Problem Solving and Data Analysis, the Heart of Algebra, and Passport to Advanced Math. According to the College Board, “Current research shows that these areas most contribute to readiness for college and career training.”

“SAT words” will be a thing of the past, according to the College Board. The new SAT will still test students’ command of vocabulary, but “will engage students in close reading and honor the best work of the classroom.”

Reading prompts will come from “Founding Documents or a text from the ongoing Great Global Conversation about freedom, justice, and human dignity.” (This sounds like they’re making the test even more coachable, but we’ll cover this in another article.)

Another big announcement came today: The College Board and Khan Academy, the online learning platform, will also release a free online SAT prep course that ” will have access to an artificially intelligent learning experience that diagnoses weaknesses and charts in a step-by-step path to improvement,” according to TechCrunch. This new collaboration will launch in the spring of 2015, a year before the new SAT is scheduled to launch.

Keep on coming back for more news about the new SAT… You can be sure our team of curriculum developers will be studying this one closely!

By Scott Shrum, who took the SAT back when it was originally on a 1,600-point scale.

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One of the most common (and frustrating) questions SAT instructors hear from their enthusiastic but sometimes misguided students is this: is there a secret to dominating the SAT? As nice as it would be if there were some long guarded secret word or ritual that a student could invoke to dominate this test, there simply is no single secret. The SAT is a skills test and requires students to practice the skills it values. There are, however, a few tools that are useful on all tests which take the form of the SAT and use it to gain advantage. Here are 11 tips to help you on test day.

1. Don’t Eat/Drink Too Much Before the Test

This should be self explanatory, but the long and the short of it is that the SAT is a three and a half hour long test and as important as it is to stay nourished and hydrated (it is HIGHLY recommended to bring a snack like almonds or granola and some water) students should not be chugging and gorging before the test unless they want to spend the test sluggish or squirming until the next bathroom break.

2. Stay Positive

It is a cliché, but there are numerous studies that show that a student’s mindset affects the way he or she performs. If things get frustrating, take a deep breath and remember how intelligent you are. It will keep you in the mindset to attack the SAT, which is the mindset that is most effective.

3. Underline Words Like “NOT” or “EXCEPT”

Be aware of any words that change the meaning of a question to its opposite. It is very easy to misread a question and look for all the ways an author advises readers to be approached by strangers, instead of the ways the author advises to NOT be approached by stranger (which is likely more useful advice). Something simple like underlining or circling acts as a good reminder of what is being changed.

4. Circle the Unknown

Similarly, in math questions it is very easy to solve for x when the question asks for y. Circle the unknown or write “unknown (x, y, length of smaller side, etc.) =” on the test so that the question isn’t done until that unknown is filled in.

5. Do the First Step

This is especially helpful with hard math problems, but is also useful in the writing section. If a question is particularly convoluted or challenging, just do the first step, which is usually writing the known information and the applicable formulas. For writing, the first step is often reading without prepositional and descriptive phrases, then checking verbs and pronouns. Often times, doing the first step reveals subsequent steps, so just start working!

6. If You Have No Idea How to Approach a Problem Skip it IMMEDIATELY

If you try to do the first step and are totally lost, skip it IMMEDIATELY! Do not hesitate and sit for five minutes pondering the different ways this problem could be solved: move on! Because the SAT is a timed test, time that is spent on one problem is taking away from time to be spent on another. Perhaps it would be possible to answer four questions in the time it takes to come up with a strategy for another problem. That is a loss of 50-100 points on the test because of poor test taking strategies. Do what is easy first, then tackle the problems that don’t come as easily.

7. Always Give an Answer on the Grid in Questions

There is a deduction of one fourth of a point for every wrong answer (though this will change on the new SAT), thus if there is a question that is completely baffling, it is best to leave it blank. This is not the case for the grid in answers. Go ahead and take a guess, even if the question has not been properly answered. Better to try and maybe get lucky than to leave it blank.

8. Bubble Page by Page

This technique simply saves time. If there is a movement of paper, back and forth, every time a question is answered, then time is being wasted on this process. Answer a full page of questions then bubble in that full page of answers. This technique will also help to keep students from getting mixed up while bubbling by forcing them to compare the question number with the number on the answer sheet more frequently.

9. Use the Answer Choices to Your Advantage

Look at the form of the answer choices to help approach a problem, and feel free to plug in answer choices when possible. This is a sure fire step when another method isn’t obvious. Answer choices are usually listed from smallest to largest, so use this information to help narrow down the choices after testing the first choice. Eliminate obviously incorrect answer choices so they can’t distract from the correct one and can improve odds if guessing becomes necessary.

10. Plug in Numbers

Especially on “theoretical problems” or problems that say “for some integer”, “for all prime numbers” it is very useful to just pick numbers that fit the description and plug them in to the equation or situation described. Be sure to pick a positive and negative number when applicable as they can often create very different outcomes. Also, don’t forget zero if it is an option!

11. Do NOT Go Back and Check Your Work, but Check as You Go

Going back to check work wastes SO much time. It essentially forces students to do the entire problem again! Check arithmetic as you go with a calculator and double check to make sure you didn’t lose any negatives or improperly distribute something in parentheses. Also check again that you answered the question being asked and that you weren’t tricked by “NOT” or “EXCEPT”.

These are not magical techniques to ace the SAT. The SAT still requires students to practice the applicable reading, writing, and math skills, but using these techniques on the SAT, and other tests, will help to ensure that you are performing at the top of your potential. Happy test taking!

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.

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One of the main goals of the GMAT is to determine whether or not you can analyze a situation in front of you and determine the information needed to solve the question. In this way, the GMAT is testing the same skills required to solve a business case. The numbers in front of you are not important, but your method of solving the question is. Crunching numbers and measuring hypotenuses are not useful skills in business; you’ll have a calculator (or an abacus) to do that. Understanding how to approach and solve problems is the true skill being tested.

To that point, many students are far too eager to rely on shortcuts, gimmicks and memorization. Understanding what is being asked is the key to getting the right answer much more frequently than hastily getting to some solution. Of course, getting to work quickly and mindlessly crunching all the numbers as quickly as possible will sometimes work, but it also misses the entire point of the exam. If getting the right answer to a rote multiplication was the only criterion, then you’d be allowed to pull out your smart phone and plug in the numbers. The GMAT is attempting to delve deeper into your brain process than that.

That being said (or written), the GMAT is also interested in speed, which is why there is a time limit to each section. Solving the answer correctly in 15 minutes is no more useful than spending one minute to get the wrong answer because you went too fast. There must be a balance between direction and speed (like a vector) Thus, our best tactic is to quickly identify what is being asked and get to work on a strategy to solve the right answer fairly quickly (hopefully in less than two minutes!)

As an apt example, let’s look at a question that a lot of people miss because they don’t analyze the situation before turning into (extremely slow) human calculators:

Shawn is planning a bus trip across town that involves three buses. Bus 1 travels between Shawn’s house and downtown, and it leaves every half-hour starting at 7:20 AM. Shawn will need to be on bus 1 for 1.2 hours. Bus 2 travels between downtown and uptown every half-hour starting at 7:10 AM. Shawn will need to be on bus 2 for 2/3 hour. Lastly, bus 3 travels between uptown and Shawn’s destination every hour starting at 9 AM. Assuming all buses stay on schedule, what is the least amount of time Shawn must spend waiting for buses?

(A) 12 minutes

(B) 18 minutes

(C) 48 minutes

(D) 1 hour, 12 minutes

(E) 1 hour, 20 minutes

The first thing that comes to mind is that we can just plug in the numbers and find the time it takes to wait for the buses (or that Shawn should just get a car). We can figure out the timing from 7:20 AM and take it down the line from there. Let’s do that for completion’s sake, but it doesn’t mean that this is the best course of action by any means.

If Shawn gets on the first bus at 7:20, then he’ll spend 1.2 hours (or 1 hour and 12 minutes) on the bus before getting off at 8:32. It’s important to note that fractions of hours are converted into decimal by dividing by 60, not 100. The second bus comes every half hour starting at 7:10, so Shawn will assuredly miss the first three and only get on the bus that comes at 8:40. He’s waited for 8 minutes up until this point. Bus 2 will take 40 minutes to reach its destination, dropping Shawn off at 9:20 AM. From there, bus 3 will be around every hour, so he’ll have to wait until 10 AM, an additional wait of 40 minutes. Thus, if Shawn gets on the first bus and all buses stick to their schedules, he’ll wait 48 minutes.

This is the answer a calculator would get, and as long as no analysis is done, it is a reasonable answer. However, we’ve all experienced situations like this in our daily lives. If the bus is coming for a specific time, your goal is usually to minimize the wait time and arrive at the bus stop slightly before the bus is due. This will minimize your wait time. If the bus will be at the stop at 10 AM, there isn’t much point in being there at 9:01 waiting (although you may break your record at Angry Birds) when you can be there at 9:55 instead.

Doing some analysis of this situation, the first bus comes every 30 minutes, meaning the bus always shows up twenty minutes past the hour or ten minutes to the hour. Within each hour, there are two choices you can make: the first bus or the second bus. After that, the choice returns with only the hour hand increasing by one. We thus need to figure out what will happen if we hop on the 7:50 bus instead of the 7:20 bus.

Recalculating, we’re on the first bus for 1.2 hours, meaning we get on at 7:50 AM and get off at 9:02. The second bus still comes every half hour starting at 7:40, so we can jump on the 9:10 bus after waiting 8 minutes, just like in the first example. This bus takes us 40 minutes, and therefore drops us off at 9:50. We’re 10 minutes early for the last bus, which is still scheduled at 10 AM, bringing the total amount of time waiting to 18 minutes. Taking bus 1 at 7:50 instead of 7:20 gets us to the destination at the same time but reduces the wait time by 30 minutes, and is therefore preferable.

Time on bus 1

7:20

7:50

8:20

8:50

9:20

9:50

Time off bus 1

8:32

9:02

9:32

10:02

10:32

11:02

Wait time

8 mins

8 mins

8 mins

8 mins

8 mins

8 mins

Time on bus 2

8:40

9:10

9:40

10:10

10:40

11:10

Time off bus 2

9:20

9:50

10:20

10:50

11:20

11:50

Wait time

40 mins

10 mins

40 mins

10 mins

40 mins

10 mins

Time on bus 3

10:00

10:00

11:00

11:00

12:00

12:00

Total Wait Time:

48 mins

18 mins

48 mins

18 mins

48 mins

18 mins

The table above highlights the repetitive nature of problems like these. Every bus that comes at twenty past the hour will lead to a 48 minute total wait time, while every bus that comes at ten to the hour will lead to an 18 minute total wait time, regardless of the hour. (again assuming that the buses always run on time)

On GMAT problems, it’s important to take a few seconds to understand what is being asked in the problem. Rushing headlong into a solution will work on many questions, but on tricky questions, a strong analysis of the situation is required to make the most effective decision. Despite the many tricks and gimmicks touted to solve GMAT problems more efficiently, the underlying goal of this test is to gauge your ability to analyze situations and apply logic. Being able to optimize a given scenario is important not only when in business, but also when in line for a bus.

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

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Earlier this week, we talked about what it means to be on the waitlist. Today, we’ll go into more detail on what you can do if you’re on the waitlist. Despite the name “waitlist,” there are several things you can do besides simply wait for your dream school to call. From a strategic standpoint, sitting in a state of limbo gives you the opportunity to improve your profile or status as a candidate, and such improvements can and should be communicated to the admissions committees.

The way you do this is straightforward and usually as simple as sending a short email with the update (e.g. you were promoted at work, received some kind of community award or position, or got an A in that accounting class you were taking at the local community college). It is important to note that you should never revise your application with any information which could have been included in the original application (so don’t submit things that you “forgot” to include—this would be considered poor judgment), but rather only new information or changes in your profile which are potentially interesting or important to your candidacy.

Most schools will also accept new GMAT or GRE scores from an applicant who has elected to remain active on the waitlist. Of course deciding to retake the GMAT or GRE may or may not be the right thing for you, but certainly if you feel that you did not perform on the GMAT at your highest potential, it might make sense to retake the test and subsequently submit the higher score.

When deciding to retest or not, sometimes it helps to view your performance on the test in light of your target schools’ 80% range (instead of its average score). For example, a top tier school may post a 720 average GMAT, but the 80% range is 650-750. If your score was in the lower range of the 80th percentile, it could indeed help boost your chances, certainly vs. someone else on the waitlist who is not re-testing. If you elect to take the GMAT or GRE again, make sure you tell your target school’s admission office so they can be on the lookout for your new score. Obviously when you take the test, you will need to request the score be officially submitted to your school. It typically takes one to three weeks for the score to be received once requested.

One thing many candidates want to know is whether or not the waitlist is ranked and if so what their number is. In most cases, schools claim their waitlist is not ranked, but even if you do not update the committee on any changes in your profile or GMAT scores, it is important at the very least that you inform the committee of your intention to remain active on the waitlist, since only those applicants who have elected to remain active on the waitlist will be considered for admission. Each school has a different process, so make sure you reach out and touch base with them individually.

Schools generally reassess the waitlist with each subsequent new round of applications, but after the third round, there is clearly a long period of time until August when orientation starts. Don’t lose heart, and remember to remain in contact with the adcom (in a thoughtful way, for example one touchpoint per month to reiterate your interest). Who knows? Perhaps that call will come.

Scott Bryant has over 25 years of professional post undergraduate experience in the entertainment industry as well as on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs. He served on the admissions committee at the Fuqua School of Business where he received his MBA and now works part time in retirement for a top tier business school. He has been consulting with Veritas Prep clients for the past six admissions seasons.

ForumBlogs - GMAT Club’s latest feature blends timely Blog entries with forum discussions. Now GMAT Club Forums incorporate all relevant information from Student, Admissions blogs, Twitter, and other sources in one place. You no longer have to check and follow dozens of blogs, just subscribe to the relevant topics and forums on GMAT club or follow the posters and you will get email notifications when something new is posted. Add your blog to the list! and be featured to over 300,000 unique monthly visitors

As Hip Hop Month rolls along in the GMAT Tip space, we’ll pass the torch from classic artists to the future, today letting Drake take the mic.

In MBA-speak, Drake is a natural Kellogg candidate, a collaborative type who loves group projects, always appearing on tracks with other artists and bragging not just about his own success, but “now my whole team here.” So in that teamwork spirit, let’s work with Drake to help him solve his most famous math problem with some lyrics of his own:

The problem: “The square root of 69 is 8 something; I’ve been trying to work it out”

The solution: “Started from the bottom, now we here.”

On the GMAT, a problem that asks you for the square root of a not-that-common square (you have to have the squares memorized up to about 15 and you should know that 25^2 is 625, too) is almost always going to be an exercise in “starting from the bottom,” using the answer choices to help guide your work. The GMAT doesn’t care if you can calculate the square root of 69, but it does care about whether you can leverage assets like answer choices to help you solve the problem. So on a problem like Drake’s, answer choices might look like:

(A) Between 6 and 7

(B) Between 7 and 8

(C) Between 8 and 9

(D) Between 9 and 10

(E) Between 10 and 11

And in that case, starting from the bottom – looking at the answer choices before you begin your work – can tell you two things:

1) You don’t need an exact number; an estimate will suffice.

2) They’re giving you the numbers to use as an estimate; if you start in the middle of the range (using 8 and 9), you can determine whether you need bigger or smaller numbers.

So if you try 8^2 to give yourself a range of numbers, you’ll see that the square root of 69 is going to be bigger than 8, since 8^2 is 64. So then try the next highest integer, 9, and when you see that 9^2 is 81, bigger than 69, you’ve bracketed in the range at between 8 and 9 and you don’t need to do any more work. When math looks like it could be labor-intensive, the answer choices often show you that you don’t have to do it all!

Even if the problem were a bit tougher, and gave exact numbers like:

(D) 8.31

(E) 8.66

You could again lighten the load by picking an easier-to-calculate number in between, like 8.5. That’s not the easiest math in the world, but multiplying by 5s is typically fairly quick and you’d see that the number has to be less than 8.5 (since 8.5-squared is 72.25).

So the lesson is this – on most Problem Solving and Sentence Correction questions, it pays to “start at the bottom” so to speak, at least taking a quick glance at the answer choices to see if anything jumps out to help you guide your work on the problem. For Problem Solving, some of the prime candidates are:

If the units digits of the answers are all different, you can shortcut the multiplication

If one variable from the problem (say the problem has x, y, and z) is missing in the answers (say they only have x and z), you’ll want to start working to eliminate that missing variable

If the answer choices contain telltale signs of a certain shape or relationship (the square root of 3 usually comes from a 30-60-90 or equilateral triangle; pi usually comes from circles), your job is to find and leverage that shape

If the answer choices include fractions, you can use the factors in the numerator and denominator to guide your math (for example, if three of the choices have a denominator of 3 and two have a denominator of 6, part of your work will include the question “will the denominator be even?”)

On Sentence Correction, pay attention to the first and last words (or phrases) of the answer choices for obvious differences. You may see:

Two use a singular pronoun (its) and three use a plural (their) – this means that as you read the sentence you’re looking to find the noun that the pronoun refers to

The answer choices use different tenses of the same verb (are vs. were vs. have been) – this means that your job is to pay attention to the timeline in the sentence to see which verb tenses are consistent with the logical sequence of events

Two use “that of (noun)” and three just use the noun – this means that there’s a comparison going on, and you need to determine whether you’re comparing the possessions (the GDP of Canada vs. that of the UK) or the nouns themselves

Naturally, there are many, many more examples of clues that the answer choices can leave for you, so the true lesson is as simple as Drake’s lyrics. On Problem Solving and Sentence Correction problems, start (briefly) from the bottom to see if there’s anything you can glean from a quick peek at the answers that will help you more quickly get “here”, to the right answer.

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I could have sworn that I had discussed negative remainders on my blog but the other day I was looking for a post discussing it and much as I would try, I could not find one. I am a little surprised since this concept is quite useful and I should have taken it in detail while discussing divisibility. Though we did have a fleeting discussion of it here.

Since we did miss it, we will discuss it in detail today but you must review the link given above before we proceed.

Consider this: When n is divided by 3, it leaves a remainder 1.

This means that when we divide n balls in groups of 3 balls each, we are left with 1 ball.

This also means that n is 1 MORE than a multiple of 3. Or, it also means that n is 2 less than the next multiple of 3, doesn’t it?

Say, n is 16. When you split 16 balls into groups of 3 balls each, you get 5 groups of 3 balls each and there is one ball leftover. n is 1 more than a multiple of 3 (the multiple being 15). But we can also say that it is 2 LESS than the next multiple of 3 (which is 18). Hence, the negative remainder in this case is -2 which is equivalent to a positive remainder of 1.

Generally speaking, if n is divided by m and it leaves a remainder r, the negative remainder in this case is -(m – r).

When n is divided by 7, it leaves a remainder of 4. This is equivalent to a remainder of -3.

n is 3 more than a multiple of m. It is also 2 less than the next multiple of m. This means m is 5.

This concept is very useful to us sometimes, especially when the divisor and the remainder are big numbers.

Let’s take a question to see how.

Question 1: What is the remainder when 1555 * 1557 * 1559 is divided by 13?

(A) 0

(B) 2

(C) 4

(D) 9

(E) 11

Solution: Since it is a GMAT question (a question for which we will have no calculator), multiplying the 3 numbers and then dividing by 13 is absolutely out of question! There has to be another method.

Say n = 1555 * 1557 * 1559

When we divide 1555 by 13, we get a quotient of 119 (irrelevant to our question) and remainder of 8. So the remainder when we divide 1557 by 13 will be 8+2 = 10 (since 1557 is 2 more than 1555) and when we divide 1559 by 13, the remainder will be 10+2 = 12 (since 1559 is 2 more than 1557).

So n = (13*119 + 8)*(13*119 + 10)*(13*119 + 12) (you can choose to ignore the quotient and just write it as ‘a’ since it is irrelevant to our discussion)

So we need to find the remainder when n is divided by 13.

Note that when we multiply these factors, all terms we obtain will have 13 in them except the last term which is obtained by multiplying the constants together i.e. 8*10*12.

Since all other terms are multiples of 13, we can say that n is 8*10*12 (= 960) more than a multiple of 13. There are many more groups of 13 balls that we can form out of 960.

960 divided by 13 gives a remainder of 11.

Hence n is actually 11 more than a multiple of 13.

We did not use the negative remainders concept here. Let’s see how using negative remainders makes our calculations easier here. The remainder of 8, 10 and 12 imply that the negative remainders are -5, -3 and -1 respectively.

Now n = (13a – 5) * (13a – 3) * (13a – 1)

The last term in this case is -5*-3*-1 = -15

This means that n is 15 less than a multiple of 13 i.e. actually 2 less than a multiple of 13 because when you go back 13 steps, you get another multiple of 13. This gives us a negative remainder of -2 which means the positive remainder in this case will be 11.

Here we avoided some big calculations.

I will leave you now with a question which you should try to solve using negative remainders.

Question 2: What is the remainder when 3^(7^11) is divided by 5? (here, 3 is raised to the power (7^11))

(A) 0

(B) 1

(C) 2

(D) 3

(E) 4

Hint: I solved this question orally in a few secs using cyclicity and negative remainders. Don’t get lost in calculations!

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!

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Claremont McKenna College, a young private liberal arts school founded in 1946, is part of the Claremont University Consortium that also includes Pomona College, Scripps College, Pitzer College, Harvey Mudd College, and two graduate schools. It is ranked #18 on the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings. Claremont College takes a pragmatic pre-professional approach to academics, preparing students for global leadership roles.

The most popular majors by student enrollment at Claremont College are economics, government, and psychology; although the college offers thirty-three majors, it specializes in economics and government. The international relations program stresses diplomacy and government action. The study abroad program is unique in that students are frequently immersed in a culture by participating in an international NGO.

Several professors at Claremont McKenna are recognized as experts in their fields. One professor was on the Bush Economic Advisory Committee, one is a frequently quoted expert on primary election politics, and another was a government advisor during both the Nixon and Reagan administrations. The academic tone of the college is decidedly conservative. Students with a more liberal mindset may be more comfortable at Pomona than Claremont McKenna. This is a hands-on career prep college.

According to rankings for educational institutions’ student return on investments, Claremont ranks #13 overall in getting a great return on tuition investment, #4 among West Coast schools, and #2 among liberal arts colleges. A degree from Claremont McKenna College is highly valued among large corporations and government agencies. CMC students can enjoy paid internships during their college studies, and those in the Washington Scholars program receive assignments on Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, or international NGOs, among others. The Athenaeum, a social and intellectual center for the exchange of ideas, hosts world renowned speakers who interact with the students four nights a week.

Beyond the academics, Claremont McKenna College has a reputation among the consortium as a party school. Some students say this is an unfair characterization that springs from the college’s more lax campus drinking rules than the other four schools. There is the opportunity on campus to play on the weekends as hard as you study during the week, however, there are plenty of weekend activities for non-drinkers and occasional drinkers. It isn’t so prevalent that non-drinking students feel it’s unavoidable. In fact, Stark Hall in the Towers is a substance free dorm.

Claremont McKenna is part of the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps NCAA Division III athletic program. The athletic program boasts a long history of winning. Of the twenty-one men’s and women’s sports teams, fourteen have finished in the top ten in the country since beginning in 1958. Student-athletes are held to high academic standards in and out of their seasons. Coaches may write letters of support to help sway admissions in your favor, but otherwise have little influence over the selection process. Claremont is one of the top athletics programs in the SCIAC Division. The school also has a strong commitment to intramurals.

Claremont McKenna, perhaps because it is so young, is short on traditions. One of the school’s traditions is for incoming freshmen to go on wilderness orientation adventures with upperclassmen and faculty prior to the beginning of school. Destinations include beach camping on Catalina Island, rock-climbing in Yosemite, or canoeing on the Colorado River. Other traditions are ponding, where students are thrown into a campus fountain on their birthdays, and champagne theses day, where students exchange their last paper for a personal bottle of champagne and hang out drinking and talking in the fountains the rest of the day.

There is a constant flow of social and academic opportunities on campus. Claremont students are confident and assertive; they’re politically and fiscally conservative and welcome a lively debate on nearly any issue. With the great weather of Southern California, intimate small campus atmosphere, and proximity to Los Angeles, it’s no wonder Claremont students are consistently among the happiest and most satisfied in the nation.

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In this series we return to classic movies to learn fundamental strategies for GMAT Success.

There are two facets to each quantitative problem – (1) deciding what to do and (2) then actually doing the math. I refer to these respectively as the “diagnosis” and “surgery.”

A Good Diagnosis Avoids Unnecessary Surgery On the GMAT “diagnosis” means to read the problem, do a quick triage of what is asked and what information is given, and come up with a plan of action. “Surgery” is how I refer to the careful completion of the actual math. I use the word “surgery” in order to emphasize the fact that the math must be done with focus and with care and is not something to take for granted.

One aspect of the quantitative section is that “a good diagnosis avoids unnecessary surgery.” In this scene from the movie Doc Hollywood, the main character, played by Michael J. Fox, is about to send a kid in for open heart surgery when the wise old physician steps in and gives him a can of carbonated soda instead. Talk about avoiding unnecessary surgery!

(Note: This clip contains some coarse language).

)

What this clip illustrates is the value of making sure of your diagnosis before you launch into anything too extreme. Doc Hollywood is prescribing heart surgery and the cure turns out to be a soda. When applying this principle to the GMAT you will want to go ahead and complete any simple math such as addition or easy multiplication. If the “surgery” (or math) is going to take less than 20 or 30 seconds then it is certainly worth doing and you should not really waste your time looking for an easier way. It is when the math is complicated and has lots of potential for error (like major surgery) that you want to be sure of your diagnosis.

Put It into Practice Apply this knowledge to the following problem from the Veritas Prep Statistics and Combinatorics book:

A company assigns product codes consisting of all the letters in the alphabet. How many product codes are possible if the company uses at most three letters in its codes, and all letters can be repeated in any one code?

(A) 15,600

(B) 16,226

(C) 17,576

(D) 18,278

(E) 28,572

Do you have the answer? Before you run off and start taking 26 to the power of 3, you will want to think about ways to avoid all of that unnecessary surgery.

The question says, “at most three letters” in a code and “all letters can be repeated in any one code.” The first statement means that you have multiple problems within one question and the latter statement means that this is not a permutation or combination, but it is an example of “independent selection.”

Basically, since any number can be repeated you could have a one letter code with 26 possibilities, or a two-letter code with 26 * 26 possibilities, or a three letter code with 26 * 26 * 26 possibilities. Since the questions says “at most 3 letters” one, two, and three letter codes are all valid options. You do not need to choose one, but should include all three in your answer. Calculate the number of possibilities for each option and then add them together: so 26 + 262 + 263.

Unless there is an easier way. This is a good time to look at the answer choices. You are generally looking for either answers that are spread very far apart or answers that have distinctive unit’s digits. These are often the best ways to avoid doing messy math in this situation. If the answers have large gaps you should estimate. In this case estimating is not that simple, so you should go with the unit’s digit. You will find that any power of 6 results in a unit’s digit of 6. Therefore, 26 has a unit’s digit of 6 as does 262 and 263. Therefore the unit’s digit of the answer is 8 (6 + 6 + 6 is 18 for a unit’s digit of 8). The correct answer is D.

Think Like a Doctor Doc Hollywood is an absolutely classic movie from the 1990s, and it illustrates a classic truth about the Quantitative section. If you are about to do some very complicated math, you might want to step back and make sure of your diagnosis. After all, as you are in the process of multiplying three digit numbers together, you do not want some older, wiser GMAT test-taker to give you that look of disdain and say “Nice job, Hollywood.”

David Newland has been teaching for Veritas Prep since 2006, and he won the Veritas Prep Instructor of the Year award in 2008. Students’ friends often call in asking when he will be teaching next because he really is a Veritas Prep and a GMAT rock star! Read more of his articles here.

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U.S. News & World Report, which maintains arguably the most influential graduate school rankings in the world, has just released its new business school rankings for 2015. It’s far too easy for applicants to get caught up in the rankings, and to obsess over the fact that a school dropped three spots from one year to the next, but reality is that MBA rankings matter. They influence how recruiters look at schools, they serve as a signal to applicants and affect what caliber of applicants each school receives, and they give you an idea of where you stand relative to your target schools. You should never end your business school selection process with the rankings, but the reality is that you will probably start the process by seeing where schools sit in the MBA rankings.

Here are the top 25 American MBA programs according to U.S. News. Each program’s 2014 ranking (published in 2013) follows in brackets:

2015 U.S. News Business School Rankings

1. Harvard [1]

1. Stanford [1]

1. Penn (Wharton) [3]

4. U. of Chicago (Booth) [6]

5. MIT (Sloan) [4]

6. Northwestern (Kellogg) [4]

7. UC Berkeley (Haas) [7]

8. Columbia [8]

9. Dartmouth (Tuck) [9]

10. NYU (Stern) [10]

11. U. of Michigan (Ross) [14]

11. U. of Virginia (Darden) [12]

13. Yale [13]

14. Duke (Fuqua) [11]

15. U. of Texas (McCombs) [17]

16. UCLA (Anderson) [14]

17. Cornell (Johnson) [16]

18. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) [19]

19. U. of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) [20]

20. Emory (Goizueta) [18]

21. Indiana (Kelley) [22]

22. Washington U. in St. Louis (Olin) [21]

23. Georgetown (McDonough) [25]

23. Notre Dame (Mendoza) [27]

25. U. of Washington (Foster) [24]

25. Vanderbilt (Owen) [30]

(Yup, 26 schools actually made the “Top 25″ in the U.S. News MBA rankings this year.)

What’s Changed Since Last Year?

Certainly, much of the chatter about this year’s MBA rankings will be about the fact that Wharton has edged into a three-way tie with Harvard and Stanford for the #1 spot. Also at the top, Chicago Booth managed to leapfrog MIT Sloan and Kellogg to take sole possession of the #4 spot. Despite some modest juggling, the same ten MBA programs that a year ago could say they were “top ten” schools are the same programs that can make this claim this year.

Outside of the top ten, Ross rose three spots to be just on the outside of the top ten, climbing from #14 to #11 (switching places with Duke’s Fuqua). Notre Dame’s Mendoza and Vanderbilt’s Owen climbed four spots and five spots, respectively, to break into the top 25. You can be sure that some champagne is popping in Indiana and in Tennessee this afternoon.

You can read more about 14 of the the most competitive business schools in Veritas Prep’s Essential Guides, 14 in-depth guides to the most elite MBA programs, available on our site. If you’re ready to start building your own MBA candidacy, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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So much time and energy is spent in preparing for the SAT. Many consider it the gate keeper to their college acceptence. It is a way to distinguish oneself on a level playing field from all others who are attempting to gain admission to college, but what is the SAT really? Is it an IQ test? Is it a college prep test? Does one really have to succeed on the SAT to do well in college?

It is probably best to begin with what the SAT is not. The SAT is NOT an IQ test. Once again, the SAT is NOT an IQ test! Doing well or poorly on the SAT does not make a student “smart” or “dumb” and the SAT is not a predictor of a person’s mental acuity (even tests that are supposed to measure IQ tend to be deeply flawed, but that is neither here nor there).

The SAT is also NOT a predictor of how well a student will do in college beyond the first semester or so. For many students who do not excel at standardized tests, the SAT is not even a good indicator of proficiency at certain academic skills. Performing well on the SAT is also not required for admittance to a number of reputable institutions of higher learning, though for a great many others, a good SAT score is very helpful in distinguishing one student from a number of other qualified applicants.

So what is the SAT? The SAT is a SKILLS test. It tests on a number of copy editing skills, including spotting common grammar and usage problems and improving sentences that have errors. It tests the ability to write an ARGUMENTATIVE essay about some broad topic, and tests the ability to synthesize basic algebra and geometry skills in slightly unconventional contexts.

The SAT is an objective test. There are clear right and wrong answers for ALL multiple choice questions, and the SAT is curved so that the scores represent where students fall in a distribution curve of all students who take the SAT. The SAT is long. It takes about three and a half hours and it is exhausting.

Finally, what does all this mean for students? Since the SAT is not an IQ, or aptitude test, but is, instead, a SKILLS test, students can learn the skills necessary to succeed on the SAT. Once again, the essential skills for the SAT are as follows:

Vocabulary

Algebra, Geometry, Graphing, And Probability

Basic Editing

Writing A Five Paragraph Essay

Analyzing Paragraphs For Intent And Content

Since these skills can be learned, if a student is unhappy with their initial score, there is a lot that can be done to improve it. The SAT favors people who prepare specifically for the test (this is true of nearly every standardized test), so the best way to improve an SAT score is to work on the applicable skills and get used to the kinds of questions the SAT asks.

This is just an overview of what the SAT is and is not. The big take away is that the SAT is not a measure of intelligence, so those who find the SAT challenging should not fall into the trap of questioning their own intelligence. Instead, try to identify what skills need the most work and endeavor to improve in those areas. Success on the SAT may take some work, but the benefits that it bestows in terms of access to certain schools, potential scholarships, and differentiation from other applicants is well worth the effort. Happy studying!

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.

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The SAT’s upcoming redesign has some interesting elements – the return to the 1600 scale, the elimination of obscure-for-obscure’s-sake vocabulary, etc. – but perhaps the most noteworthy facet of the announcement is its continuation of a positive trend in standardized tests: a push for more “authentic” material.

Much like the GMAT’s recent addition of “Integrated Reasoning” – which includes problem types such as Graphics Interpretation and Table Analysis, requiring examinees to use real-world data to draw conclusions and determine relationships – the redesigned SAT will shift from “abstract math” to “real-world math,” as well as replace arcane vocabulary with relevant-but-challenging vocabulary.

What does this mean for students? The new SAT will look a lot more like the classroom, and preparation for the SAT will much more align with preparation for success in college and beyond. When the GMAT made its move to include more-authentic prompts for questions, the request came not from admissions directors but from business school faculty, who wanted students to be more prepared for the types of data analysis they would perform in school.

Similarly, the College Board has enlisted the aid of classroom teachers to help inform the creation of new test material. In this way “book smart” will more closely align with practical ability, and students will be encouraged to learn material in ways that will benefit them in and out of the classroom and testing center.

As educators, we embrace this opportunity to help students succeed on the new SAT, particularly given that the process of doing so will add more life skills, too. We’re particularly looking forward to:

The mere inclusion of the word “reasoning” is cause for excitement, as the Veritas Prep methodology has long valued deep understanding and application over mere memorization and “remembering.” Ratios, proportions, and percentages are incredible tools when learners embrace them conceptually, and we’ve long encouraged the use of “Relative Math” as a strategy for dealing with authentic numbers. For example, when authentic situations call for comparisons like:

Which city saved the most money as a percentage of its budget?

City Amount Saved Total Budget

Andersonville $8,225 $47,975

Bronxtown $16,750 $142,950

A good understanding of ratios and proportions allows a student to quickly calculate that Andersonville saved a little more than 1/6 of its budget (since 8/48 would be 1/6, and the actual numerator is a little more than 8,000 and the actual denominator is a little less than 48,000), and Bronxtown saved less than 1/7 of its budget (since 20/140 is 1/7, but here the numerator is less than 20,000 and the denominator is more than 140,000). As the SAT trends toward more authentic numbers from real-world situations, the ability of students to perform “relative math” estimates, rounding off numbers and using ratios to get quick relationships, will be instrumental in success.

Check back tomorrow for two more reasons we’re excited for the new SAT!

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