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Of the errors on the SAT, the idiomatic error can seem to be the most difficult to spot. Though these kinds of errors are particularly tricky, there are some clear steps that can be taken to help prepare for the dreaded error of idiom.

What is an idiomatic error?

Essentially, an error of idiom is a mistake in the word or words, often prepositions, that are used in association with other words, often verbs. An example would be the previous phrase, “used in association with”. It would be incorrect to say “used for association with” or “used in association to”. There are literally thousands of idiomatic phrases in English. For this reason, it can be very difficult to strengthen this particular skill, though there are ways to increase one’s ability to spot an idiomatic error.

How can I strengthen this skill?

The first step is to be aware that idiomatic errors are most likely errors in the choice of the preposition being used. Often on the writing portion of the SAT, there are words or phrases that are underlined which could, hypothetically, contain an error. For instance, the verb in a sentence might be underlined because SAT writing problems contain errors with subject verb agreement, verb tense agreement, and so on. Most prepositions that are underlined on the SAT indicate possible idiomatic errors.

To be clear, this is not to say that most SAT questions with underlined prepositions contain idiomatic errors, this is simply to say that idiomatic errors are most commonly found in prepositions, so the primary error to check for when a preposition is underlined is an error of idiom. Identifying the prepositions is the first step in checking for an idiomatic error.

The second step is to try to identify the verb or other words the preposition is associated with and attempt to use the whole phrase in a different context to figure out whether or not the phrase is viable. Say we had an example like this:

“The inclination that the child had for reflexively putting questions back towards those asking them was as ingenious as it was irritating.”

Let’s imagine that “toward” is underlined in the above example. “Toward” is a preposition and is thus a prime suspect for an idiomatic error. As the sentence is, it is difficult to know whether or not “toward” is being used properly. To test its use, we can construct a new phrase that uses the verb phrase “put questions” and “toward”. Is it correct to say “Let me put this question toward you”? It sounds a bit funny, doesn’t it? It sounds much less strange to say “Let me put this question to you”. By using this little trick it is much easier to see that the above example has an error of idiom and should use the preposition “to” instead of “toward”

Idiomatic errors can be tricky to spot, but trust your instincts when you put the preposition and accompanying words in a new context. If it sounds wrong, it probably is. Also, the more a person reads and is exposed to language, the easier these types of problems become, so be sure to continue to expose yourself to lots of SAT passages and questions and continue to read for pleasure as well. It’s cheaper than a movie to go out and grab something from the used book store, and it can help to improve your score on the SAT. 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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On GMAT Data Sufficiency questions, it’s important to note that you don’t have to do any calculations to get the right answer. In theory, it’s entirely possible to simply look at a problem and determine that the answer must be D (whilst eating your grey poupon). The question format simply asks you to confirm whether you have enough information to make a decision, not what that decision is or what any specific value is.

The downside of Data Sufficiency questions is that, by not necessarily going through the calculations, it’s very possible to misinterpret the question or reach a premature conclusion without considering every option. While there is no formal requirement of actually calculating anything, I do recommend trying to cement your answer by plugging in a few numbers to confirm your theory. In the worst case, your hunch is validated and you feel confident. In the best case, you recognize a simple mistake or assumption you took for granted and you avoid a glaringly incorrect choice (like Decca records passing on The Beatles in 1962).

Another common trap students fall into on data sufficiency is misunderstanding the information given. If the question is asking you for x, and you think it’s asking you for y, your chances of getting the right answer are reduced to lucky guesses and finger slips of the mouse (much like Australia’s chance of winning the 2014 World Cup). Avoiding doing the math also makes it harder to see if you go down the wrong path. In some instances, it’s worth writing down some numbers just to see what happens. Sometimes just seeing what doesn’t work will lead you down the path of the correct answer.

Let’s highlight this principle with a Data Sufficiency question that a lot of people can narrow down to two choices, but then pick incorrectly:

A certain car rental agency rented 25 vehicles yesterday, each of which was either a compact car or a luxury car. How many compact cars did the agency rent yesterday?

(1) The daily rental rate for a luxury car was $15 higher than the rate for a compact car.

(2) The total rental rates for luxury cars was $105 higher than the total rental rates for compact cars yesterday

(A) Statement 1 alone is sufficient but statement 2 alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked.

(B) Statement 2 alone is sufficient but statement 1 alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked.

(C) Both statements 1 and 2 together are sufficient to answer the question but neither statement is sufficient alone.

(D) Each statement alone is sufficient to answer the question.

(E) Statements 1 and 2 are not sufficient to answer the question asked and additional data is needed to answer the statements.

Looking at what’s provided in the question stem, there are two types of cars being rented. The total number of cars rented is 25, and every car is either compact or luxury. We only have to determine how many compact cars were rented, so something as small as the number of luxury cars rented would solve our problem very quickly. Looking at the statements, we only have information about prices. The daily rate for the compact car is 15$ less than the luxury vehicle. That’s great (and a little unrealistic), but it doesn’t help us answer the question about the number of vehicles. Statement 2 also talks about money, this time talking about the total revenue instead of a per-car basis. This doesn’t help either, so answer choices A, B and D are all out.

This type of question visibly needs you to combine statements in order to get anywhere. There is a danger in combining statements without thinking, because there is often a relationship that’s just hard enough to detect linking the two statements that gets test-takers thinking they’re on the right track. In this question, the fact that 105$ is 7 times the luxury car premium of 15$ makes it feel like 7 more luxury cars were rented than compact cars. This type of connector is hard enough to see that people feel encouraged that they’ve stumbled upon something useful. Unfortunately, when you’re feeling clever is when you’re most vulnerable to fall into a GMAT trap (Something about pride going before a fall).

Let’s delve into these numbers a little. If 7 more luxury cars got rented than compact cars, and the numbers add up to 25, then that means the company rented 16 luxury cars and 9 compacts. If we stop here, we might think that the answer is C. However, applying arbitrary numbers might make us realize the error of our ways. Let’s say a compact car is 100$ an hour (easy number to work with). This makes the luxury cars 115$. We can quickly calculate that the compact cars will bring in exactly (9×100) 900$. The luxury cars will bring in well over 1600$. These two numbers don’t respect the 105$ difference mentioned in statement 2. Why is that? Maybe I picked the wrong prices? Let’s go smaller: 20$ compacts and 35$ luxury cars. That’s 180$ for the compacts and 525$ for the luxury cars. We’re getting closer, but this still doesn’t work. What’s happening?

The number of cars we chose (16 luxury cars and 9 compacts) has a solution, but it’s not one that makes any real world sense. Solving for the two equations and two unknowns with our chosen number of cars:

L+C = 25

L(x+15) = C*x+105

Replacing L by 16 and C by 9

16(x+15) = 9*x+105

16x+240 = 9x+105

7x = -135

x = -19.286

That’s right, this solution works if we give people 19$ to rent compact cars and only 4$ to rent out luxury cars. Clearly this solution does not work in the real world because it does not mean what we expected. On test day, you don’t have to go through the actual math to solve for x, but being able to recognize that renting out 16 cars at a 15$ premium will yield at least (16*15) = 240$ more dollars for the luxury line than the compact line. The relationship of 7 additional cars only works if we rent a total of 7 cars, all luxury liners. Any other rental will throw off this delicate balance, highlighting that it was nothing but a mathematical mirage.

So what’s the answer to this question? As many of you probably figured out, it’s just going to be answer choice E. There are multiple values that will work (and even be positive) for the two constraints given. Many test takers can solve these questions without having to write a single digit down. However, if you’re ever unsure, write down a few numbers and see what they tell you. The reason some people dislike math is the same reason some people love math: it tells the truth. If your understanding of the question is shoddy, a couple of concrete numbers will tell you more than all the x’s and y’s in an alphabet soup (or a Jerry Springer show).

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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While summer hasn’t officially started with the solstice coming in a few weeks, this post-Memorial-Day short week and a final farewell to winter weather has started the summer season in earnest for most Northern Hemispherians. And thus beginneth the season of sentences like:

It’s not only the heat but also the humidity.

and

Both the heat and the humidity have been awful this summer.

And while you lament the oppressive heat waves with such sentences this summer, you can not only wish you had air conditioning but also prepare for the GMAT. “Not only…but also;” “Both _____ and ______;” “Just as X, so Y;” and other similar phrases should be free points for you on the GMAT if you heed this advice (which is not only valid GMAT advice but also terrific summertime skin care advice):

Cover up.

As an example, consider this partial sentence correction question:

This weekend, Anna will either go surfing at Paradise Cove or sailing at Montego Marina.

(A) go surfing at Paradise Cove or sailing

(B) surf at Paradise Cove or she will sail

(C) go surfing at Paradise Cove or go sailing

The technique? Cover up everything from “either” through “or” (or from “not only” through “but also” or from “both” through “and” when you see those structures) and if the sentence doesn’t still make sense, it’s wrong. Try it:

(A) This weekend, Anna will…sailing at Montego Marina.

(B) This weekend, Anna will…she will sail at Montego Marina

(C) This weekend, Anna will…go sailing at Montego Marina

As you should see, C is the only one that makes sense, so it has to be right. The reason? These “structures that split in two” require parallel construction – if there’s a verb right after “either” there has to be a verb right after “or.” But if the subject comes right after “either,” there has to be a subject (like she) right after “or.” And the byproduct of that is that if that parallel structure is broken, the second half of the sentence won’t make sense – it will either be missing an important word or it will include a redundant word or phrase (like “it will”).

So when you see any of these constructions:

Both X and Y

Either X or Y

Neither X nor Y

Just as X, so Y

Not only X, but also Y

Seize the opportunity and cover up everything between (and including) those structural phrases. If the resulting sentence doesn’t make sense, that answer is wrong. And since people often struggle mightily with parallel structures, the “Cover Up” strategy should give you free points on that question. So while you may not be a fan of either the heat or the humidity this summer, paying attention to parallel structure when you issue those complaints can help you get into both Harvard and into Stanford in the fall.

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The famous rounding song by Joe Crone is pretty much all you need to solve the trickiest of rounding questions on GMAT:

You just slip to the side, and you look for a five.

Well if the number that you see is a five or more,

You gotta round up now, that’s for sure.

If the number that you see is a four or less,

You gotta round down to avoid a mess.

To put it in our own words, when we round a decimal, we drop the extra decimal places and apply certain rules:

- If the first dropped digit is 5 or greater, we round up the last digit that we keep.

- If the first dropped digit is 4 or smaller, we keep the last digit that we keep, the same.

For Example, we need to round the following decimals to two digits after decimal:

(a) 3.857

We drop 7. Since 7 is ‘5 or greater’, we are left with 3.86

(b) 12.983

We drop 3. Since 3 is ‘4 or smaller’, we are left with 12.98

(c) 26.75463

We drop 463. Since 4 is ‘4 or smaller’, we are left with 26.75

(d) 8.9675

We drop 75. Since 7 is ‘5 or greater’, we are left with 8.97

Note example (c) carefully:

When we round 26.75463 to two decimal places, we do not start rounding from the rightmost digit i.e. this is incorrect: 26.75463 becomes 26.7546 which becomes 26.755 which further becomes 26.76 – this is not correct. .00463 is less than .005 and hence should be ignored. You only need to worry about the digit right next to the digit you are keeping. Just slip to the side, and look for a five!

A logical question arises: what happens when we have, say, 2.5 and we need to round it to the nearest integer? 2.5 is midway between 2 and 3. In that case, why do we round the number up, as the rule suggests? Note that a 2.5 is a tie and we have many tie breaking rules that can be used. They are ‘Round half to odd’, ‘Round half to even’, ‘Round up’, ‘Round down’, ‘Round towards 0’, ‘Round away from 0’ etc. We don’t need to worry about all these since GMAT uses only Round up i.e. 2.5 will be rounded up to 3.

Let’s take a look at a question now which uses these fundamentals.

Question: The exact cost price to make each unit of a widget is $7.6xy7, where x and y represent single digits. What is the value of y?

Statement 1: When the cost is rounded to the nearest cent, it becomes $7.65.

Statement 2: When the cost is rounded to the nearest tenth of a cent, it becomes $7.65.

Solution: The question is based on rounding. We need to figure out the value of y given some rounding scenarios. Let’s look at them one by one.

Statement 1: When the cost is rounded to the nearest cent, it becomes $7.65.

When rounded to the nearest cent, the cost becomes 7 dollars and 65 cents. 6xy7 cents got rounded to 65 cents. When will .6xy7 get rounded to .65? When .6xy7 lies anywhere in the range .6457 to .6547. Note that in all these cases, when you round the number to 2 digits, it will become .65.

Say price is 7.6468. We need to drop 68 but since 6 is ‘5 or greater’, 4 gets rounded up to 5.

Similarly, say the price is 7.6543. We need to drop 43. Since 4 is ‘4 or smaller’, 5 stays as it is.

So x and y can take various different values. This statement alone is not sufficient.

Statement 2: When the cost is rounded to the nearest tenth of a cent, it becomes $7.65

Now the cost is rounded to the tenth of a cent which means 3 places after the decimal. But the cost is given to us as $7.65. Since we need 3 places, the cost must be $7.650 (which will be written as $7.65)

When will 7.6xy7 get rounded to 7.650? Now this is the tricky part of the question – from 7.6xy7, you need to drop the 7 and round up y. When you do that, you get 7.650. This means 7.6xy7 must have been 7.6497. Only in this case, when we drop the 7, we round up the 9 to make 10, carry the 1 over to 4 and make it 5. This is the only way to get 7.650 on rounding 7.6xy7 to the tenth of a cent. Hence x must be 4 and y must be 9. This statement alone is sufficient to answer the question.

Answer (B)

Hope you see that a few simple rules can make rounding questions quite easy.

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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Having graduated from a top engineering school, I know the vernacular is different in the tech world. Often, engineers wake up one day after graduation and several years on the job realizing they have been speaking this tech language exclusively and now that they have the inkling to go back to business school, they fear failure in the admissions process for lack of “socialization” with the real world such as their fellow applicants from other industries may have.

While it’s true a winsome personality and savvy people skills can help in a business school interview, you must first get to that interview and HEY! by the way, who says engineers don’t have a personality or people skills? Certainly there is a stereotype engineer out there who wears unfashionable glasses and keeps more than several pens in their breast pockets, but the engineers who decide to pursue business school often by the phenomenon of natural selection, generally have broken out of this stereotype in the first place.

If you fall into the former category, the best thing you can do to prepare for business school is to spend the next year or so interacting with non-engineers. Leverage that Facebook account to have lunch with your friends or acquaintances in banking or sales and make sure you can fit into that crowd—as much as 40% of your incoming classmates in b-school will hail from it.

If you come from the latter category, where you are looking to break out of the engineering world in part because you feel you have that “extra something” your co-workers don’t have (and therefore feel you will be able to successfully manage them vs. work beside them for the balance of your career), you should take a few tips to heart as you prepare to apply to b-school.

Firstly, you need to abandon any and all concerns that you lack the kind of business experience you perceive the “average” b-school applicant has. The truth is, b-schools love engineers and know they come with a can-do attitude, a knack for practical problem solving and natural quantitative and analytical skills. The two areas they will scrutinize based on their experience interviewing engineers is your leadership potential and your teamwork experience. Certain fields within engineering are more conducive to teamwork and in fact many disciplines in the high tech world provide some of the best team project work of any industry.

For those of you in that camp, you will have no trouble relating anecdotal examples of how you play well in the sandbox with others. If you are in IT or computer engineering and find your daily duties revolve around you, your coffee mug and your flatscreen, you might want to branch out and seek some team projects in the few months you have left before application season hits in full swing.

If you want to talk to us about how you can stand out, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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

The University of California – Los Angeles is ranked #34 on the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings. UCLA is located in the upscale Westwood neighborhood, surrounded by Beverly Hills, Century City, Bel Air, and Brentwood. You would be hard-pressed to find a more unique urban setting for a university than this.

Take a bike ride down Pacific Coast Highway, become an extra in a movie production, stroll along trendy Sunset Boulevard, window shop on exclusive Wilshire Boulevard, hang out in the sun by the Santa Monica Pier, or discover the local celebrity haunts. Take a weekend trip outside the city to a local music festival like Coachella. There is so much to do in this iconic town, you’ll discover passions you never knew you had.

Attending UCLA is more than getting a degree at the end of four years; it is an experience that cannot be recreated anywhere else. The City of Angels is full of possibility, and UCLA is the college where dreams become reality.

UCLA has one of the most rigorous academic programs in the nation, offering more than five thousand courses in over one hundred academic departments. With a little over 120 majors to choose from, you can easily define your desired major and begin developing the required skills necessary for your chosen field. With so many academic opportunities one may feel they could be lost in the shuffle, but more than seventy percent of undergraduate classes have fewer than thirty students. These small class sizes allow each student the chance to receive personalized attention from the internationally renowned professors.

The faculty includes Fulbright Scholars and Nobel Prize winners, among other academically acclaimed professors, who provide challenging coursework that stimulates the student body. There are powerful resources offered to the students attending UCLA from research opportunities to internships. Los Angeles provides an environment for UCLA students where connections can be made to further academic and career goals on a wide scale, due to the myriad big name companies in a multitude of fields that call LA home. Whether your goal is to change a single life or the entire world, you can achieve your academic dreams at this elite University.

There is never a dull moment at UCLA; the annual Bruin Bash famously kick starts the beginning of the school year. With more than eight hundred clubs to choose from and the opportunity to begin your own, you’ll always find a new way to participate and enjoy time with your fellow classmates. Along with the clubs, many students start new businesses, participate in community building projects, and run a variety of organizations. The students aren’t the only ones taking advantage of campus life; the faculty is part of what makes this school thrive, participating in innovative research programs that continuously develop and change the world for the better.

True Bruins put action behind their words and are driven by the school’s philosophy of “integrity, excellence, accountability, respect, and service.” The student body and faculty on this campus are committed to a nurturing and inclusive environment that encourages each student to contribute to the greater good. Students stay in residence halls within a few minutes of classes and enjoy amenities such as cafes and recreation centers. There are a wide range of student support centers and programs, health and safety resources, and organizations making this urban oasis filled with palm trees and energizing vistas a well-rounded campus.

The Athletic department at UCLA is one of the most elite in the country, with a long history of athletic achievements. This NCAA Division I athletic program, whose athletes compete in a wide range of sports, draws some of the best athletes in the nation. UCLA has won the most NCAA titles among all of the colleges. Its students have produced over 251 Olympic medals, holding more Olympic medals than most countries. Not only are the athletes who attend UCLA winners in their particular sports, they are also extremely invested in their academics, and valued participants in the community. This makes them highly versatile members of society. The UCLA quote, “Champions don’t go here, champions are made here,” epitomizes their dedication to athletic prowess.

UCLA athletics are supported by thirteen state-of-the-art facilities including, stadiums, pools, recreational centers, and more. Not only are the varsity athletes valued and well cared for, but the entire faculty and student body are as well; the University offers recreational classes in yoga, martial arts, sailing, and much more. Several camps are provided for varsity athletes as well as camps for community members, including summer camps for kids in grades K-12. There are also group recreational exercise classes and Intramural programs. UCLA is the place to completely expand and reach your academic and physical goals.

Traditions include trying to capture or prank crosstown rival USC’s mascot while protecting their own before the big football game; it also includes the Beat USC Bonfire and Rally. Spring Sing is held annually at Pauley Pavilion or the Los Angeles Tennis Center; it originated 70 years ago as a competition among sororities for “Champion Serenaders of Sorority Row.” Other more recent traditions include Entertainment Networking Night, I Love UCLA Week, Locks of Love, and Dinners for 12 Strangers.

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One of the worst feelings in many student’s young test taking lives is furiously working away at some standardized test, and really feeling that they are NAILING IT, only to look up at the clock and realize they have five minutes to complete the next fifteen problems. Time management can be extremely tricky on the SAT, but there are a number of things that can be done before the test to insure that time is used effectively.

1. Be Prepared

This may seem like a gimme, but it is amazing how many students put almost no time into preparation for the SAT and then are surprised when they find it difficult to finish on time. The SAT is a timed test, and, therefore, should be prepared for under timed circumstances. If a student has not practiced approaching problems in a time setting, they will not have the wherewithal to know that they have spent three minutes on a problem in a section where the average question should take you one minute.

Students must learn what doing twenty questions in twenty five minutes feels like and must learn what it feels like to be running out of time and still continue at the pace necessary to obtain correct answers (it is preferable to not learn this while taking the test).

2. Familiarize Yourself with Common Problem Types

Preparation also helps to increase the speed at which each problem can be approached because it increases familiarity with common problem types. There are certain kinds of problems that nearly always appear on the SAT. We have fancy names for them like “counting problems” or “hidden triangle problems”, but regardless of what they are called the important thing is that they are frequently repeated on the SAT year after year and are easily recognizable. The biggest time suck on the SAT is the time taken figuring out how to approach a problem.

If you are familiar with a type of question, there is a built in road map for how to attack it and no time is taken developing a strategy for solving the problem. There may still be problems that seem unfamiliar, but having familiarity with common problem types allows you to dedicate a little extra time to these problems.

3. Don’t Read Directions

This goes hand and hand with being prepared and does not warrant a lot of discussion. If you have practiced taking the SAT, you know what the directions say and need not waste time reading them. This is especially true on the essay section of the SAT. The only important thing in those directions is the question listed after the word ‘Assignment’. Everything else is simply stating that the student should write an essay on the topic listed and can be ignored.

4. Answer Questions as You Read

Answering questions as you read dramatically increases the speed at which you can attack the reading section by making it less necessary to go back and read the passage multiple times. Because the questions on the SAT are fairly literally asking you to restate ideas from the passage (often in new or more general terms), answering as you go both helps to keep the ideas from the passage fresh in your mind and prevents you from being distracted by parts of the passage that are not asked about in the question.

Remember, the golden rule of the reading passages: “Is it stated in the passage?” The very few correct answers that are not explicitly stated in the passage will at least be more probable than the other wrong answers, so do not be shy when eliminating incorrect answer choices.

5. Do Not Go Back and Check Work

Going back and checking work after the section is completed is an inefficient way to check a section for accuracy. Essentially, checking work in this way forces you to go through every problem twice, which isn’t a great way of doing things. When you do a math calculation that can be checked on a calculator, check as you are doing the problem. Before you move on to the next question ask yourself, “What is the question asking? Have I found the correct unknown?” Even in the reading or writing sections it can be helpful to have a little checklist to go through for difficult questions. “Have I accounted for ‘NOT’ or ‘EXCEPT’ in a reading problem? Have I read the writing question without prepositional phrases? Have I checked the pronouns for agreement? Have I checked the prepositions for idiomatic errors?”

Do all of this as you go, then, if you have finished the section completely, you can be confident with your answers and only spend extra time on problems where you weren’t sure you used the right methodology.

6. Bubble in the Answers Page

This is another simple technique that can add a few precious minutes of work time. Bubbling each answer choice as you answer a question requires constantly moving back and forth between the answer sheet and the work book. If you simply answer a page of questions then bubble in the results all together, you can save some time and use it for the actual work of the test.

These are not the only strategies to increase efficiency on the SAT, but they are a few useful ones. The real trick to getting through the SAT is to be very familiar with the format and question types so that all the time is spent answering the questions, not attempting to figure out how to answer the questions. Break a pencil!

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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Last week, at its 7th annual global conference, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) revealed the results of the 2014 edition of its MBA applicant survey. Since 2009, AIGAC’s MBA Applicant Survey has gathered and summarized the perspective of MBA applicants on the admissions process, helping member admissions consultants and business schools gain insights into applicant perceptions of each stage of the admissions process, from tools they first use to research programs and the reasons that they select programs to career and salary expectations. Many consultants and admissions officers consider it an extremely reliable read on the pulse of the graduate business education space.

This year’s survey was no different. AIGAC’s research partner, Huron Consulting Group, gathered more than 800 responses from applicants based around the globe. Among the 2014 survey’s most notable findings:

When it comes to choosing where to apply and attend, contact with alumni or current students and visits to the school are among the top five most important sources of information, more important, on average, than off-campus school info sessions or fairs.

When selecting an MBA program, men and women value the reputation and career impact at the same levels, but diverge on the importance of location and rank. Men placed significantly more importance on rankings than women.

20% of this year’s applicants expect to start their own business upon graduation. This result is far higher than the 7% of recent graduates from top 10 US programs (per US News) who are self-employed post-MBA.

Approximately 80% of foreign students want to work in the US (20% only want to work in the US while a further 60% are considering a range of options that include the US). By contrast, only 40% of US students consider working elsewhere.

Perhaps one of the most interesting revelations of this year’s survey was the first significant reporting on MBA applicants’ reactions to the relatively new video responses that some business schools now employ, either as pre-recorded “essay” responses or as live online interviews. Looking at the numbers globally, applicants are positive about the use of video in the application process. 38% of those in the US who completed one or more applications with a video component felt the video response did represent them well. However, 50% of international applicants did not feel that their video response represented them as well.

See more here:

(You can click to enlarge the image.)

Why the disparity? A lot of it may come down to language differences, and applicants’ comfort with the English language. Kellogg and Yale SOM — two of the most prominent MBA programs that employe video responses — give applicants no more than two minutes to gather their thoughts after seeing a prompt for the first time. If you’re quick on your feet, you will do well with this format, but it’s obviously harder to do that when English is your second language. We can’t help but feel that many international applicants were left feeling dissatisfied with their output for this reason.

Of course, while U.S. schools try to be very globally-minded, the language spoken in their classrooms is English, and one reason MBA admissions officers like this format is that is lets them easily gauge applicants’ grasp of the language. From working in learning teams to speaking up and contributing in class to getting involved with student activities, a student’s fluency in English can have a significant impact on well a student does while in business school.

To read all the results of the 2014 AIGAC MBA Applicant Survey, go here to download a PDF report!

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Many students who take the GMAT come from backgrounds that stressed mathematics. A significant percentage of GMAT test takers come from engineering backgrounds or other fields that require strong analytical skills. However, these students often find that the GMAT quantitative section is challenging for them. This is because the GMAT tests math in a way that is unfamiliar to these students, taking them out of their comfort zones and requiring them to solve questions in new and unfamiliar ways (most glaringly, without a calculator).

Students who were never very fond of math in high school (and even kindergarten) often struggle with the math on the GMAT, but this is somewhat expected. If you never liked a topic, you probably never spent hours thinking about it or doing exercises in your leisure time (think of people who dislike cardio). However, many students who traditionally excel at math struggle just as much as the students who never cared for the subject. This frustration can be even more pronounced when it’s about a topic you’ve traditionally excelled at over your life.

Delving into the topic a little, the GMAT does not allow you to have a calculator with you during the exam because the calculator is a crutch that will end up doing the work for you. Naturally, in every conceivable real world situation, you will have a calculator with you, but finding ways to get the correct answer is an important aspect of business. When a decision needs to be made in a split second, you cannot always reach for your calculator. Worse than that, a calculator is clearly faster and more accurate than you, but we cannot (yet) be replaced by computers because computers cannot think as humans do (#Skynet). If the goal of the GMAT was to ensure that all students could perform complex mathematical calculations, you’d have a TI graphing calculator attached to your arm. The goal of the exam is to make you think, and nothing mitigates independent thinking like a calculator.

So how does the exam test math if it won’t give you complex math? Basically by giving you simple math and expecting you to solve it quickly. Simple math does not necessarily mean small numbers. In fact, large, unwieldy numbers are a great way to validate that you understand the underlying concept rather than utilize a brute force approach to solve the problem.

Let’s look at a very simple math question that helps to underline the kind of math problems you should be able to execute quickly:

What is 1,800 / 2.25?

(A) 400

(B) 500

(C) 650

(D) 800

(E) 850

On the actual GMAT, you might only see this question if you’re scoring in the bottom quintile of the test. However, you can easily have a calculation such as this to execute as part of a larger problem. Either way, getting the correct answer on a question such as this should ideally take you 30 seconds or less.

There are many ways to get the correct answer here, and the method chosen has a lot to do with personal preference. As someone who is comfortable with mental math, I would immediately attempt to approximate this equation. If it were simply 1,800 / 2, the answer would be 900. Since 2.25 is bigger than 2, the answer must be a little smaller. This narrows the choice down to likely either D or E. Rounding 2.25 to 3 would yield a division with a quotient of 3, further cementing the elimination of answer choices A and B. However between 800 and 850, the choice is pretty close, so we might need a more precise approach.

One common strategy is to convert the decimal into a fraction. Using algebraic rules, this might simplify our math quite a bit. 1,800 / 2.25 is the same as 1,800 / (9/4). This equation might seem equally daunting, but remember that division is the same thing as multiplication, and dividing by 9/4 is the same as multiplying by 4/9 (this property holds for all numerators and denominators). If I turned this into 1,800 * 4/9, I can think of it as two separate steps: (1,800 * 4) / 9, or (1,800 / 9) * 4 (commutative property). The second is clearly much easier to process, and you end up with 200 * 4, or 800. The answer must thus be D and can be seen fairly cleanly using fractions.

You can also get the answer by using reverse-engineering. Simply put, an equation of 2.25 * x = 1,800 would yield the same x, so you can think of this equation as backwards. If x were 1, the product would be 2.25, which is clearly not the right answer. How can I get closer to the actual product? Well if I set x to be 4, then the product would be 9. From 9, I might be able to see that I could set x to be 40 and then 400, giving 90 and 900 respectively. Once I’m at 900, I simply double x (from 400 to 800) and get the correct answer. This strategy can be helpful for those who dislike division and prefer to work with multiplication.

Overall, it doesn’t matter which strategy you use (in fact you may use an entirely different approach and still get the correct answer. There is no “correct” strategy on the GMAT, only the Machiavellian notion that you must get the correct answer, by algebra, deduction, induction, strategic guessing or even dumb luck. Being able to solve math questions in roughly as long as it would take to solve if you had a calculator will help you realize why the tool is not allowed on the exam. In the best case, you can turn math on its ear and appreciate the nuanced way the GMAT tests your understanding of these fundamental concepts.

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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There are traditionally two types of business school students, which I grant you, fall into very broad, generalized buckets: Poets & Quants. It’s likely if you have begun digging into b-school research already that you have come across these categories and have therefore considered where you might be located. It’s often fairly obvious who fits in where, and certainly there are exceptions for folks who truly straddle both categories, but by and large, you will identify with either one or the other, and knowing where you come from can often help you in the application process. It can possibly also help you in other ways as well, such as when you are working on team projects in school, or afterwards, when the time comes to choose your post MBA job opportunity.

For some applicants, it’s rather obvious. For example, if you scored in the 90th percentile on the GMAT math portion, you’re clearly a quant, or at least have the skills of one. Often these types of scores will correlate with engineers, financiers, accountants, project managers, computer scientists, etc. Of course this is not always the case, and in fact, if you come from a more “poetic” background (let’s take an extreme example: English teacher), yet can still post a 90th percentile on the quant portion of the GMAT, you can actually really stand out as unique, so congratulations, and aim high!

For some reason, scoring in the 90th percentile on the verbal portion does not necessarily mean you are a poet. It seems that folks who nail the quant can often also nail the verbal part of the test and are in general, good test takers (don’t you just hate them!). So again, these folks might be labeled as quants. And guess what? B-schools favor quants. The reason for this is the math and analytic-driven curricula and the hopelessness some folks experience when they get in over their head with “calculating things” in class. Schools cannot afford to drag a class down with folks who just don’t “get it” when numbers are involved. And let’s face it—if you want to do well in business, you’d better be pretty good at math, so it’s justified. It’s a long road before you can simply hire others to do the math for you!

But what about folks who do fine on the GMAT, but don’t have a clear strength—the most obvious example would be someone who scores evenly on both sections. There are other areas to look, and one of the clearest can be your college experience. Do you have a BS or a BA degree? Was your major in Biology, Business or Engineering or were you gracing the halls of Philosophy, English, History or Political Science? Did you attend a Liberal Arts school? These indicators can sometimes communicate to the admissions committees if you are a Poet or a Quant. Another strong indicator is what you do for a living. Social Worker? Poet. Banker? Quant.

Overall, more quants than poets apply to business school, which on one hand is a shame. There are loads of successful poets out there running businesses (they simply hire really good CFOs). If you are a quant by nature, you will have an easy time meeting qualifications for b-school but a harder time standing out. Because there are fewer poets in the mix, their advantage is in appearing unique, and thanks to the advantages of a diverse classroom, b-schools seek poets to round out the student body makeup. After all, the last thing we want in the business world is quant-jocks making all the decisions.

I have mentioned before that the curriculum in b-school assumes no prior business knowledge. For this reason, poets can hang with their quantitative counterparts in the classroom just fine. So if you are a poet, you may want to spend some time boning up on your math skills before you apply and if you are a quant, you may want to befriend your fellow poet—not only can you help them with the numbers (and thereby make a friend for life), but you can also gain some insight from the “softer side” of business.

If you want to talk to us about how you can stand out, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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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Vassar College is ranked #35 among the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings. This liberal arts college is located in Poughkeepsie, New York in the picturesque Hudson Valley north of New York City. The Vassar campus has residential and academic buildings in a range of architecture, two of which are National Historic Landmarks. Nestled on roughly one thousand acres of land, you will find everything from formal gardens to woodlands and meadows on this designated arboretum. The college boasts impressive academic offerings and excellent athletic facilities on a tranquil campus with breathtaking views. It supports an organic farm, cross country trails, and community gardens on the former all girls’ campus.

The academic program at Vassar College is one of the most elite in the nation. They have a long history of utilizing innovative curricula and continue to be pioneers of educational achievements. Vassar offers over 50 liberal arts majors, including a self-designed independent major. Political science, phychology, English, economics, and biology are the most chosen majors among Vassar students. The school offers small class sizes that are taught solely by renowned professors—no teaching assistants. One of the key academic facilities is the renovated Thompson Library which stores 25% of the titles from the Federal Depository Program. Another outstanding facility is the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, which serves as an art center and museum. It houses a variety of collections totaling 19,000 works representing every era from antiquity to contemporary art. This is one of the oldest college art collections in the nation.

While these two prominent fixtures provide exciting learning opportunities for those attending Vassar, the school has so much more to offer. The Vassar Farm is a unique educational feature; it includes over 500 acres of land with a large part attributed to various research projects run by faculty and students. Extensive division-specific resources, study away programs, internships, research opportunities, and field work are just a few other learning options for students at Vassar. If you want a well-rounded and in depth education that will catapult your life after college Vassar is the college for you.

Vassar College knows athletics play an important role in developing a well-rounded person in the world. Twenty-three teams compete in NCAA Division III sports at Vassar, along with a variety of club sports, and intramural leagues. Vassar supports their athletes with impressive facilities. An elevated running track, fitness facilities, various top-of-the-line sports fields, a wood floor gymnasium, and a large six-lane pool with a diving area are just a few of the student amenities in the athletics department. They also provide modern upscale locker rooms and a sports medicine facility that is open to all of their students. This is a dream college for athletes of all levels.

A student’s life on campus is what they make it—literally. Vassar bestows a great deal of power on the student body regarding how the campus is run and what the future should hold. Students can start new organizations, attend policy committees, plan conferences, find and fix institutional problems, and much more. Vassar students can shape not only their own college experiences, but also those of future students, constantly improving Vassar. Over 95% of students, along with faculty, take advantage of on-campus housing all four years. Dorms are referred to as houses and are designed to make students feel at home.

Each student stays in the same house for the first three years; houses creatively imprinted by the students who occupy them. This not only creates space for camaraderie, but also allows students a little fun rivalry between houses. Senior year students are allowed to choose to stay in their homes or move into apartments on campus. Attending Vassar also allows you to choose from over 1,600 sponsored events annually; you can attend some seriously amazing concerts, films, and lectures, to name a few. There is also a wide variety of student services provided on campus from research and teaching to learning centers and counseling services. Attending Vassar means having a jam packed diverse calendar.

Traditions are taken to a new level at Vassar, they take pride in their gorgeous campus and deep historical roots. This can be seen clearly through their many traditions some dating back to the eighteen hundreds. Some prominent examples include the class trees where each class plants a tree each year adding to the glorious natural arboretum that is Vassar campus, and The Book of Matriculation that freshmen sign the first day at Vassar as a symbol they have become part of elite Vassar student community. Be wary of the Primal Scream done on the eve of exam week. There are many more traditions students participate in throughout the year that reinforce Vassar pride. This liberal arts college suits independent and creative students who flourish in an environment of innovation and tradition.

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Some of the GMAT’s hardest Problem Solving problems can be made exponentially easier by keeping a famous Jay-Z lyric in the back of your mind. When you hear the phrase:

If you’re having girl problems, I feel bad for you son?

What immediately springs to mind?

I got 99 problems but a b**** ain’t one.

Now, what’s the GMAT genius in Hova’s lyric? He didn’t tell you what his problems WERE, he just told you what they WEREN’T. Explaining 99 problems would take way more than the two minutes you’d have for a quant problem or the ~3 minutes that Jay wants to spend on a track. And, like Jay-Z, you want to be Mr. One Take on GMAT problems, doing things the efficient way and getting to the answer much more quickly. So heed his advice when you see a problem like:

Solange takes four roundhouse swings at her brother-in-law. If she is just as likely to connect on any one punch as she is to not connect on that punch, what is the probability that she connects on at least one punch?

Now, there are plenty of sequences in which she can connect:

Hit, Miss, Hit, Miss

Miss, Miss, Miss, Hit

Hit, Hit, Hit, Hit (ouch!)

etc.

Trying to list out all the different ways in which she can land a punch is almost as time-consuming as listing all of one’s 99 problems. But think of it this way – which of the sequences available “ain’t one”; which ways does she NOT land a punch. There’s only one:

Miss, Miss, Miss, Miss

And so if we’re calculating the probability among the 16 total sequences (each of two things can happen at each of four points, so the total number of sequences is 2^4 = 16), then if one doesn’t work the other 15 must work. So the probability is 15/16. And the “formula” to use on this essentially derives straight from Jay-Z’s lyrics about what “ain’t one”:

For complementary events (when the probability of A + the probability of B = 100%), the probability of A = (1 – “not A”). And most strategically, this can be used as:

The probability of “At least one” = (1 – probability of “none”)

So if you’re calculating the probability of an outcome that has many different paths, see if it’s a cleaner calculation to determine the number of paths that “ain’t one” of your desired outcomes, and then just subtract those from one.

Note that this ideology doesn’t just extend to probability. In many problems, calculating all the outcomes that “are” desired is a whole lot harder than calculating the outcomes that “ain’t one” of the desired. Consider this problem from this week’s G-MATT Mondays session:

Matt is touring a nation in which coins are issued in two amounts, 2¢ and 5¢, which are made of iron and copper, respectively. If Matt has ten iron coins and ten copper coins, how many different sums from 1¢ to 70¢ can he make with a combination of his coins?

A) 66

B) 67

C) 68

D) 69

E) 70

Here look at the answer choices – they’re all very, very high numbers for the range (1-70) in question. So if your goal is to try to come up with all the possible coin combinations that work, you’ll be there a while. But what about the combinations that “ain’t one” of the possibilities? Since the maximum is 70, if you find the combinations that don’t work you’re doing this much more efficiently…and the answer choices tell you that at maximum only four won’t work so your job just became a lot easier.

With 2 and 5 cent coins as your options, you can’t get to 1 and you can’t get to 3, so those are two “ain’t one” possibilities. And then “100% minus… comes back into play” – Notice too that 70¢ is the maximum possible sum (that would use all the coins), so 70¢ – 1¢, or 69¢, and 70¢ – 3¢, or 67¢ are impossible too. So the answer is 66, but the takeaway is bigger: when calculating all the possibilities looks to be far too time-consuming, you often have the opportunity to calculate the possibilities that “ain’t one.” You’ve got a lot of problems to tackle on test day; hopefully this strategy allows you to make one question much less of one.

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Last week we looked at some rounding rules. Today, let’s go over some official questions on rounding. They are quite simple and if we just keep the “Slip to the side and look for a 5” rule in mind, they can be easily solved.

Question 1: If n = 2.0453 and n* is the decimal obtained by rounding n to the nearest hundredth, what is the value of n* – n?

(A) -0.0053

(B) -0.0003

(C) 0.0007

(D) 0.0047

(E) 0.0153

Solution: A quick note on place value nomenclature:

Given a decimal 345.789, we know that 5 represents the units digit, 4 the tens digit and 3 the hundreds digit. Also, 7 represents the tenths digit, 8 the hundredths digit and 9 the thousandths digit and so on…

Now let’s go back to this question:

n = 2.0453

We need to round n to the nearest hundredth which means we will retain 2 digits after the decimal. The third digit after the decimal is 5 so 2.0453 rounded to the nearest hundredth is 2.05.

Thus n* – n = 2.05 – 2.0453 = 0.0047

Answer (D)

Question 2: If digit h is the hundredths digit in the decimal n = 0.2h6, what is the value of n, rounded to the nearest tenth?

Statement 1: n < 1/4

Statement 2: h < 5

Solution: Given that n = 0.2h6

We need to find the value of n rounded to the nearest tenth i.e. we need to keep only one digit after the decimal.

Statement 1: n < 1/4

In decimal form, it means n < 0.25

If h were 5 or greater, n would become 0.256 or 0.266 or higher. All these values would be more than 0.25 so h must be less than 5 such as 0.246 or 0.236 etc. In all such cases, n would be rounded to 0.2

This statement alone is sufficient.

Statement 2: h < 5

This is even simpler. Since we have been given that h is less than 5, when we round n to the tenths digit, we will get 0.2

This statement alone is also sufficient.

Answer (D)

Question 3: If d denotes a decimal number, is d >= 0.5?

Statement 1: When d is rounded to the nearest tenth, the result is 0.5.

Statement 2: When d is rounded to the nearest integer, the result is 1.

Solution: Again, a simple question!

We need to find whether d is greater than or equal to 0.5 or not.

Statement 1: When d is rounded to the nearest tenth, the result is 0.5.

This means that whatever d is, when we round it to the nearest tenth, we get 0.5. What are the possible values of d? If d is anywhere from 0.450 to 0.5499999…, it will be rounded to 0.5

Some of these numbers are less than 0.5 and others are greater than 0.5 so this statement alone is not sufficient.

Statement 2: When d is rounded to the nearest integer, the result is 1.

In this case d must be at least 0.5; only then can it be rounded to 1.

d can be anything from 0.50 to 1.499999… In any case, d will be greater than or equal to 0.5.

This statement alone is sufficient to answer the question.

Answer (B)

We hope you see that if we just remember the rules, we can solve most rounding questions very quickly and efficiently.

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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The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania recently released its MBA admissions deadlines and essays for the 2014-2015 application season. The trend that picked up speed last year has continued: After dropping its number of required essays from three to two last year, Wharton has announced that this year’s application contains only one required essay. We keep asking, “How much lower can they go?” but admissions officers keep finding a way to shed essays and put more emphasis on other parts of the application.

Without further ado, here are Wharton’s application deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Wharton Admissions Deadlines

Round 1: October 1, 2014

Round 2: January 5, 2015

Round 3: March 26, 2015

Wharton’s application deadlines are virtually unchanged since last year. Note that applying in Round 1 means that you will receive your decision by December 16, which will give you about three weeks before most top school’s Round 2 deadlines. If you get bad news from Wharton in Round 1, you should still have enough time to pull together at least a couple of Round 2 applications (but don’t wait until the last minute!).

While many schools maintain that it doesn’t matter when you apply, Wharton gives pretty explicit advice on its website: “We strongly encourage you to apply in Round 1 or 2. The first two rounds have no significant difference in the level of rigor; the third round is more competitive, as we will have already selected a good portion of the class.” The school does add that there is room “for the strongest applicants” in Round 3, but your mission is clear: Get your application in by January 5!

Wharton Admissions Essays

What do you hope to gain both personally and professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

Yup, this is the only required essay in Wharton’s application this year. It has been reworded a bit, but this is really the same “Why an MBA? Why Wharton?” that the school has asked for years, so our advice mostly remains the same. Note the word “personally” in the question — Wharton isn’t only interested in what six-figure job you hope to land after earning your MBA, but also wants to know how you plan on growing as a person from the experience. You definitely still need to nail the professional part — you need to discuss clear, realistic career objectives here — but the admissions committee also wants to see maturity and introspection. How do you see yourself growing during your two years at Wharton? How do you hope the degree and the experience will impact your 10 years from now? This sort of depth will make the difference between a great response and a merely good one.

(Optional) Please use the space below to highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy. (400 words)

We normally tell applicants to only use the optional essay if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need to. However, as schools like Wharton have been cutting down on essays, the role of the optional essay has evolved a bit. No need to monopolize the admissions committee’s time, but since Wharton’s application now gives you far less space in which you can describe your interests and inject some more personality into your application, this essay provides the perfect place to do that. Have a passion or something else that goes “beyond the resume” and will help Wharton admissions officers get to know you better? This essay gives you room to discuss it and make your application that much more memorable.

Our original advice still holds, too. If you have a blemish that you need address, then this is the place to do it. You don’t want to leave a glaring weakness unaddressed. However, if you don’t have too much explaining to do, don’t be afraid to reveal something personal and memorable about yourself here!

If you plan on applying to Wharton, download our Essential Guide to Wharton, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top MBA programs… for free! If you’re ready to start building your own application for Wharton and other top business schools, 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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Davidson College, a private liberal arts college, is located in Davidson, North Carolina about 20 miles north of Charlotte. Ranked #36 among Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings, Davidson is part of the 24-school Charlotte Area Education Consortium. The college was founded in 1837 by the Presbyterian Church on the property of Revolutionary War General William Lee Davidson, after whom it was named. The 665-acre campus sits in the center of Davidson and is home to under 2,000 undergraduate students.

Davidson College is consistently ranked among the top ten liberal arts schools in the nation, and has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars. In keeping with the philosophy of interdisciplinary learning, it offers 25 majors, which may be combined with 17 minors or 17 concentrations. The campus is currently undergoing a physical transformation to create an academic neighborhood of learning spaces that will foster a new model for liberal arts education. Davidson also offers students self-instruction in five languages, 17 off-campus programs, and both domestic and international summer internships.

The school’s reputation for academic rigor combined with an uncompromising grading system attracts competent, confident, and competitive students. Talented professors are both approachable and reasonable; if the pressures become too great, expect them to work with you. Small class sizes encourage both personalized attention and relationship building. Over half the Davidson students opt for a semester of learning abroad. The school’s Honor Code allows for student-scheduled exams that are not proctored.

Campus social life at Davidson centers around the Alvarez College Union, which overlooks the Wildcat football stadium. Most student activities and events happen there. Ninety-five percent of students live on campus in above average student dorms and apartments; students can petition to live off campus, but few choose this option. There are over 200 student organizations to participate in on campus, including those that support racial and gender diversity. Over 50% of Davidson students receive financial aid supported by a generous Davidson Trust; it is one of the first colleges to eliminate student loans as part of financial aid. The campus drug policy is strictly enforced, and violations often result in suspension or expulsion. Wednesday nights and weekends are popular party times for students who drink alcohol. Greek life is expressed primarily in eating houses and two sororities for women and eight fraternities for men; a high percentage of female students are associated with either sororities or eating houses.

Davidson is a community with close ties to the college. Many residents either run small businesses, where chains are largely panned, or are employed by the college. Don’t expect a Starbucks or McDonalds, although on Wednesdays there are shuttles from campus to Walmart. During breaks students can also catch campus shuttles to the airport. The small town atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and the community embraces Davidson students. They are also quick to offer jobs and internships to students. Everything is within walking distance of campus. Davidson offers a temperate climate most of the year, the exception being the summer and early fall when it is hot and humid. Charlotte is the closest city for a weekend getaway.

The NCAA Division I Wildcats compete on 10 men’s teams and nine women’s teams. Nearly a quarter of the students participate in one of these competitive sports. The Wildcats football and wrestling teams are part of the Southern Conference, but all other sports are part of the Atlantic Ten Conference. The school boasts amazing athletic success for their size. Davidson teams have accumulated 27 conference championships, been to eight NCAA tournaments, and have unbeaten conference records in football, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, and men’s basketball. Over 61 professional athletes have come out of Davidson College. The brand new state-of-the-art $15 million Vance Athletic Center has been designed and approved; construction will begin at the end of the fundraising phase. The center, attached to Baker Sports Complex, will provide increased access to practice, training, and wellness activities for all students.

Tradition at Davidson is an important part of the college culture. The Honor Code, signed by each incoming freshman, is its centerpiece. The written pledge to not “lie, cheat, steal or commit any unethical act” is a celebrated tradition that joins new students with the college community. The annual Freshman Cake Race has been a tradition since 1934 to encourage fitness. The winner gets an entire cake to himself/herself, baked by Davidson community members. Midnight Scream is held at midnight the night before finals when students open their dorm windows and scream at the top of their lungs to release the stress of all that studying. Flickerball, a variation of football, and Spring Frolics, a campus music and party affair are also now among Davidson traditions. This college is suitable for the liberal arts student looking for an academic challenge and a warm embrace.

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Business schools receive applications from a wide variety of people from very diverse backgrounds. Because there are no strict requirements about what you have done (only that you have indeed done something), business schools entertain hopeful applications from just about every career field imaginable. Still, most applicants to business school come from what’s considered “traditional” industries and functions. In fact, from the chart below compiled at the Veritas Prep home office, you will see something you may not have noticed on your own. The overwhelming majority of the accepted applicants to top business schools in recent years (70%) have come from just four professional fields: Consulting, Finance, Sales/Marketing, and Management.

This fact contains both good news and bad news for applicants. The good news is, if you find yourself in this majority, you will have little difficulty convincing an admissions committee you are going to be fully committed to b-school. You will also not have to stretch much (if at all), to demonstrate aptitude (at least from the perspective of transferrable skill or potential for success in school or business). The bad news for the majority applicants, is that there is obviously a great deal of competition in these buckets, and schools are forced to turn away qualified applicants each year because they simply do not desire to fill their entire class with Consultants and Bankers.

There is also good and bad news for those in the other 30%. The numbers are clearly lower here, so standing out is not as difficult, and because schools like to diversify their student body makeup, according to this research, they consistently draw at least 30% of them from these other groups. Perhaps the most interesting group of all is the tiny slice of the pie known as “other,” which essentially implies a “non-traditional” background for business school. I have seen applicants in this category coming from just about every background imaginable: ranch-hand, medical doctors/pharmacists, professional musicians or athletes, even a train conductor! Often I see the most insecure applicants in this bunch, which on one hand is ridiculous, since it’s often these quirky, unique backgrounds which end up getting someone into b-school.

The key is passion.

Business schools would much rather matriculate a driven, passionate student who is 100% committed to their goals and has a clear plan to achieve them, vs. someone with a tried-and-true business experience under their belt, but who lacks ambition and vision. Finding the thread between what you have done already and what you hope to achieve post MBA is the most critical piece of the equation for non-traditional applicants.

The GMAT can also really help folks without a traditional background, since it is the only real apples to apples comparison tool the schools have to rate you against a traditional applicant. The long and the short of it is, if you are in the “other” category, you should focus on doing well on the GMAT and also on relating your story in a compelling way which ties everything together.

If you want to talk to us about how you can craft a strong application, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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. See more of his articles here.

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Anyone who really wishes to achieve success on the SAT should not only be able to identify what makes up a correct answer, but also what makes an incorrect answer. The anatomy of an incorrect answer choice is not as complex as one might expect and gives students an important tool in selecting the correct answer choice: the power to eliminate all the other, less deserving options. The most common characteristic of an incorrect answer choice is the fact that it cannot possibly be correct given the context of the problem.

This is a tip that can help with all sections of the SAT. An incorrect answer choice often cannot possibly be correct. In math, that often means a choice that is way to large or too small, an equation that does not accomplish the goal that is stated by the equation, or the answer is otherwise unfeasible in context.

For instance, say the question was as follows:

“A taxi charges d dollars for the first two miles and c cents per quarter mile for every mile after the first two. Which equation describes cost of a taxi ride of n miles in dollars.”

A) dn – c/8(100)

B) cd + 4n-8/200

C) d + (4cn-8c)/100

D) d + 100cn/4

E) 4cd(n-2) – 100

This is about as complicated as these types of problems come, but it is essentially the same as any problem which has an initial cost which is added to a dependent additional cost. Looking at the problem, we notice that the cost d is added to the mile dependent cost, which is some combination of the other terms listed in the problem. With just that knowledge we can eliminate all but two of the answer choices! Choices (A), (B), and (E) either do some strange calculation with the initial cost d, or subtract the additional cost from d. Both of these circumstances would be next to impossible if there is an initial cost being added to another cost. Thus, we only have to choose between choice (C) and choice (D). We can easily find the right answer by plugging in real numbers and checking which choice yields a correct answer. We can also see that answer choice (D) seems to be multiplying the cost in cents by 100, which, if the trip was 6 miles and the charge per mile was 25 cents, would make the taxi cost an additional $3750! This seems impossible, and leaves only the correct answer choice, (C).

The biggest factor that makes a reading answer choice incorrect is the fact that it is not discussed in the passage. By far the most repeated question I ask my students is “where is this answer stated or implied in the passage?” If something is not stated or can not be reasonably implied by the passage, it CAN NOT be the answer choice. I have begun having my students write the exact words referenced from the passage on their answer sheets to see which answer choice is closest in meaning to the statement taken directly from the passage.

More often than not, the correct answer choice is nearly identical in meaning (though usually not identical in its wording) to the selection from the passage. The answer is almost always directly stated in the passage, the few times that this is not the case, the wrong answers are so glaringly NOT stated in the part of the passage being referenced that only one answer choice is even remotely possible.

The incorrect answer choices in the writing section are either sentences that contain glaring errors, as in the improving sentences and paragraphs sections, or are parts of sentences that are underlined but do not contain errors, as in the identifying sentence errors section. The trick with finding the impossible choices on the writing section, is understanding that there are really only a finite number of types of errors that are common on the SAT. Let’s look at an example.

“Just behind the the new school house in town are a row of corn stalks which seems to rise up out of the ground as if summoned by some unknown force towards the sky. No Error.”

In this case, the impossible answer choices are choices that could not contain an error common to the writing section of the SAT. The first underlined section is simply a combination of an adverb and a preposition, which are fine to combine, as in “Jim was just inside the door.” An error here would be next to impossible. The third underlined portion is an infinitive verb (any verb in the form of “to ‘verb’”) which would most likely be incorrect if it was acting as a conjugated verb. This one is fine since it follows the conjugated verb “seems”. The only common SAT error that could be present in the fourth underlined portion is an idiomatic error with the phrase “rise…as if summoned by”. We can check this construction by trying to build another similar construction. Could you say “He spoke as if possessed by the devil” or “He moved as if drugged by some powerful narcotic”? Both of those are fine (though they seem unfamiliar because they are in the passive voice). This leaves only the second underline portion which contains a verb. The only real problems possible here are conjugation and agreement problems. Everything is in the present tense, so the conjugation is fine, but what subject does the verb “are” refer to? By golly, it refers to “a row”! It should be “IS a row” instead of “are a row.”

By understanding what errors are likely in a section of a a sentence, it is much easier to determine which choices could not possibly contain errors and which errors to check for in the ones that could contain errors. Understanding incorrect answer choices is very helpful in finding correct answer choices. Often by learning to eliminate the impossible choices, it becomes much easier to spot the choices that are possible and to score at the highest level on the SAT. 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 question format least familiar to most prospective GMAT students is unquestionably Data Sufficiency. As a test exclusive (it has a no trade clause) question type, it is unlikely that you have come across such a question without having at least glanced at a GMAT prep book. However the format is completely logical. The question is asking when do you have sufficient data to answer a question, be it “always yes”, “always no” or “specific value x”. The enemy is uncertainty; any definitive answer will suffice to answer the question and move on to the next hurdle.

As anyone who’s actively studying for the GMAT knows, you must determine whether you have sufficient data with each statement separately, and then possibly combine them if you still have not determined sufficiency. This leads most assiduous students to spend most of their time determining the relationship between the statements and the question stem. If the question were true (which it always must be), would that guarantee one specific answer? Would such a definitive answer be guaranteed if I used the other statement instead? What if I used both statements?

Allow me to pose one more rhetorical question: what happens when the exam throws a spanner in the works? The exam is designed to zigzag to avoid always asking questions in the same way. Sometimes these winding paths lead to counter-intuitive questions, which can confound unprepared test takers. One such tactic is to provide too much information (#TMI) so that test takers get perplexed as to what they’re supposed to solve.

Let’s look at an example that isn’t particularly difficult, but can cause students to feel stress and spend undue time on a question they inherently know how to solve:

If the average (arithmetic mean) of the five numbers x, 7, 2, 16 and 11 is equal to the median of the five numbers, what is the value of x?

(1) 7 < x < 11

(2) x is the median of the five numbers

(A) Statement 1 alone is sufficient but statement 2 alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked.

(B) Statement 2 alone is sufficient but statement 1 alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked.

(C) Both statements 1 and 2 together are sufficient to answer the question but neither statement is sufficient alone.

(D) Each statement alone is sufficient to answer the question.

(E) Statements 1 and 2 are not sufficient to answer the question asked and additional data is needed to answer the statements.

Looking at the question, we are being asked to solve for x. One specific value is needed here, as a range of values would be useless. Ignoring the statements, a lot of information is provided in the question stem. The average of the five numbers is also the median of the same numbers, so it behooves us to put them in order to give loose boundaries on x. The question specifically doesn’t put them in order for us to not necessarily see the limits as easily. In order, the set would be {x, 2, 7, 11, 16}.

Once we have an ordered set, we can easily solve for x. The first hint is that the mean and the median are the same, which we know to be true for sets that are equally spaced. That isn’t very helpful here as the spacing is not even between the four elements we already have, much less when we introduce x, but it’s a natural place for our thinking to initially go. The next step might be to use the logic that x is also the mean of the set, which can be solved algebraically or logically within a couple of steps.

Using algebra, we know that the sum of the five terms is equal to the average times the number of terms. We can then set up the equation: (x+2+7+11+16)/5=x

Which can then be mathematically combined: (36+x)/5=x

Multiplying both sides by 5 to eliminate the denominator: (36+x)=5*x

Moving x to the same side: 36=4*x

Thus: 9=x

We can also get the answer using logic, especially since the GMAT usually gives integers in this situation, so you only have a couple of values of x to plug in to find that it must be 9.

At this point, after a four step algebraic problem or a couple of educated guesses, we have done everything necessary to correctly answer this problem. (Gasp!) We have, in fact, solved the value of x without using either statement! I know the answer must be 9 from the information given uniquely in the question stem (is that answer choice F?) After solving the question, let’s look at the two statements and see which of the five answer choices we should select.

Statement 1 tells us that x is between 7 and 11. This was given in the question stem because the x was the median. In other words, statement 1 doesn’t give any new information, so it seems that it’s somewhat superfluous (TMI?). However, the question format specifically asks: “If statement 1 were true, could we solve for x”? And the answer is that, yes, absolutely we can solve that x is 9 if statement 1 were true. The fact that we can solve it without statement 1 doesn’t invalidate that we can solve it with statement 1. Specifically, statement 1 alone is sufficient to answer the question, which narrows the possible correct answers to A and D.

Statement 2 tells us that x is the median of the five numbers, which is the same information as statement 1. Statement 2 thus implies statement 1, and whatever the answer to statement 1, the same will hold for statement 2. The answer on such questions can thus only be D or E, since both statements give redundant information. Since statement 1 was true, statement 2 must also be true. Thus, each statement alone is sufficient, which is a verbatim transcript of answer choice D.

In actuality, you can solve this question without using either statement, but that option is not valid in Data Sufficiency. It’s not so much do I need the statement, but rather if the statement were true, would that guarantee the uniqueness of the answer. Since either statement alone guarantees one definitive answer, the answer must be D. On test day, you don’t want to waste undue time or second guess yourself if the question pattern isn’t exactly what you expect. Understand the rules of the game and approach each question logically. Those two tenets should be sufficient to get the right answer, even if you feel that the question has given you TMI.

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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If you’re like…probably most human beings this week, you’re at least aware and likely excited for the 2014 World Cup, which began this week in Brazil. As this article is being written, in fact, the 2010 finalists, Spain and the Netherlands, are doing battle in the event’s third game (congratulations to Brazil and Mexico, winners of the first two). And if you’re streaming this game or others at work or if you’ve taken days off to enjoy, you can learn quite a bit from what’s going on in these early group-stage games – lessons that can help you better understand the GMAT scoring system and better plan your test-day and study strategies.

How? There are two major parallels:

It doesn’t matter how prepared you are for the finals; you have to get there

Take Spain and the Netherlands today – two of the world’s most elite sides. If the game doesn’t end in a draw, one of these sides will have “wasted” an entire match with no points to show for it, meaning that it will face must-win (or at least cannot-lose) situations in its remaining two contests against Australia and Chile. Each team has the potential to advance back to the final, but neither is immune from the “mundane” group stage. A team that loses in today’s game will have its work cut out for it well before the tournament rounds begin…much like you’ll see on the GMAT.

On the GMAT, many would-be-Spains – students shooting for the 700+ stratosphere – have spent months preparing, attacking challenge problem after challenge problem, learning obscure formulas and math shortcuts to help them save time for that monster word problem or geometry exercise. But the GMAT scoring algorithm can be fickle – much like World Cup group play, the “easier” questions may preempt you from ever seeing the bigger “games” that you’ve prepared for. When you miss easier questions, the system has substantial reason to doubt your ability – not just that “you aren’t as smart as we thought you were” but even “and maybe your ability is even lower than this question might have indicated”. So the system shows you a slightly easier question, assessing your “floor” and wasting one valuable question that might otherwise have been an opportunity for you to prove yourself worthy of an even higher challenge. Silly mistakes hurt you twice – they reduce your score in the moment *and* they prompt the system to check your ability on even-easier questions. So your top-end ability might not matter much at all if you don’t “survive pool play” and successfully navigate those problems that may seem beneath you.

So what does that mean? You simply MUST get questions right if you can get them right – you can survive a slip-up or two but if you rush through the “easier” questions and make careless mistakes you run the risk of staying mired in that band of difficulty toward the lower end of your ability range, never earning enough opportunities to really test yourself on those extremely-challenging problems you’ve practiced. So make sure that you don’t leave yourself a leaky floor as you push to raise your ceiling – if you make mistakes in practice, address them; if you make them more than once, make a mental note to double and triple check for them on test day. Don’t let silly mistakes – those careless errors that are so easy to write off as “well that was just dumb…I knew that” – hold you back from your true potential. In other words, make sure that you don’t focus so much on tournament play that you find yourself surprised in group play.

Sometimes a draw – or even a close loss – is a cause for celebration

In World Cup group play, your primary – if not only – goal is to advance to the tournament. Accordingly, going for the win but also exposing yourself to a loss – playing too aggressively on offense that your defense becomes vulnerable – can be wildly problematic. You’ll find some of the most elite teams in the Cup playing very conservative soccer in certain games, playing specifically for the draw and the “guaranteed” points to ensure that they survive the group stage. You’ll also find teams that weren’t predicted to advance becoming thrilled when they draw with a world power like Brazil or Germany, having saved a point when it seemed like none were possible and having slightly-but-significantly outpaced the other two teams in the group. And when there are ties in the standings during group play, the tiebreakers are based on goal differentials, meaning that a 1-nil loss to a world power might be a real triumph if your competitors have lost even worse.

Similarly, on the GMAT you may need to play for the “draw” on extremely challenging questions. When a question could easily cost you 3-4 (or more) minutes en route to a guess or mistake, recognizing that it’s safer to play defense – to guess relatively quickly and save your time for the problems that you could get right – is often a smart move. This saves time to ensure that you get the problems within your wheelhouse right, and although it may not seem satisfying in the moment it helps you to avoid those silly mistakes that often come from poor pacing and a need to rush in the end.

There are plenty of GMAT lessons to be learned from the World Cup – coaches even instruct players to “form triangles” on the field (ensuring that the ballcarrier has two options at all times) much like you should look to form triangles when geometry problems get difficult – so as you watch these upcoming matches pay attention to the strategy. American audiences are often confused by the happiness of opposing fans at a draw and by the international strategies that seem less than aggressive, but the elite soccer community knows that they produce results. The same is true of a slightly conservative strategy on the GMAT.

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We would like to discuss a bit about conjunctions today – just whatever is relevant for GMAT. We will start by defining the kinds of conjunctions, then move on to the different ways in which they are used, and finally, we will see how they can be tested in a question.

A Conjunction is a word that connects or joins together words, phrases, clauses, or sentences. There are two kinds of conjunctions:

1. Coordinating conjunctions - Connect two equal parts of a sentence

Further, coordinating conjunctions are of two types:

Pure Conjunctions – and, but, or, for, nor, yet, so (the first letters of these make the acronym FANBOYS) – try to keep these in mind.

Conjunctive Adverbs – These words sometimes act like conjunctions and at other times, as adverbs – accordingly, in fact, again, instead, also, likewise, besides, moreover, consequently, namely, finally, nevertheless, for example, otherwise, further, still, furthermore, that is, hence, then, however, therefore, indeed, thus

2. Subordinating conjunctions – Connect two unequal parts of a sentence e.g. independent and dependent clauses – after, since, when, although, so that, whenever, as, supposing, where, because, than, whereas, before, that, wherever, but that, though, whether, if, though, which, in order that, till, while, lest, unless, who, no matter, until, why, how, what, even though

Things to note about conjunctions:

1. Two independent clauses can be joined by a comma and a pure conjunction. However, a comma by itself will not work to join together two sentences and will create a comma splice!

Examples:

The rain slashed the town, and the people scurried for shelter.

The policeman dodged the bullets, but a bystander was shot.

If you omit the conjunctions ’or’ and ‘but’ above, you will create a comma splice.

2. When two independent clauses are joined by a conjunctive adverb we need to insert a semicolon between the two clauses. Note that conjunctive adverbs are not really full conjunctions, and they can’t do that job by themselves. It is the semicolon that does the real job of joining the two independent clauses.

Examples:

The rain slashed the town; furthermore, the people scurried for shelter.

The policeman dodged the bullets; however, a bystander was shot.

Note that if we use a comma instead of a semicolon in the examples above, we will create a comma splice.

3. A dependent clause at the beginning of a sentence is introductory, and it is usually followed by a comma.

Examples:

While the rain slashed the town, the people scurried for shelter.

Although the policeman dodged the bullets, a bystander was shot.

On the other hand, no punctuation is necessary for the dependent clause following the main clause.

Let’s take one of our own questions to understand the application of these concepts:

Question: Unlike the previous year’s bidding, the contract was awarded not simply to the firm offering to complete the work on time for the least cost; the thoroughness of the design submission was also factored into the decision.

(A) Unlike the previous year’s bidding, the contract this year was awarded not simply to the firm offering to complete the work on time for the least cost;

(B) This year, unlike last year, the contract was awarded not simply to the firm offering to complete the work on time for the least cost;

(C) Unlike the previous year’s bidding, this year the contract was awarded not simply to the firm offering to complete the work on time for the least cost;

(D) Unlike the previous year’s bidding, the bidding for the contract this year was awarded not simply to the firm offering to complete the work on time for the least cost, instead

(E) Unlike the previous year’s bidding, the contract’s bidding this year were awarded not simply to the firm offering to complete the work on time for the least cost;

Solution: Other than the comparison errors contained in (A) – compares bidding with contract – and (C) – compares bidding with year – we have sentence structure errors.

There are two independent clauses here:

- the contract was awarded not simply to the firm offering to complete the work on time for the least cost.

- the thoroughness of the design submission was also factored into the decision.

There are two ways to join them – we can use a conjunction or a semi colon. Options (A), (B), (C) and (E) use a semi colon.

Option (D) tries to use a conjunction with a comma but note that “instead” is a conjunctive adverb. It needs a semi colon before it. The use of instead with a comma has created a comma splice. Options (D) and (E) also have meaning errors since they award ‘bidding’ to the firm instead of awarding the ‘contract’ to the firm. (E) is also incorrect in its use of ‘were awarded’. The contract is singular and hence, ‘was awarded’ should be used.

Option (B) rectifies all these errors and is the answer!

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!

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