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Over the past five years or so, more business schools have been jumping on the GRE bandwagon by accepting either a GMAT or a GRE score. The percentage of candidates to top MBA programs who apply with only a GRE score is growing, but it’s still very small — less than 5% at most schools.

This leads many candidates to wonder how applying with a GRE score may be viewed by MBA admissions committees.

After speaking with dozens of admissions officers, I have a few insights that may be helpful:

Feelings have changed over the past five years, so be careful that you don’t use outdated information. Countless blogs have been written over the years about whether to take the GRE. If they were not written in the past year, I would not put any stock in them. Attitudes have changed dramatically at many business schools over just the past year or two as they have greater experience in handling applicants with a GRE score in lieu of a GMAT score.

[*]Unless stated otherwise, almost all business schools genuinely do not have a preference between the GMAT and the GRE. While Veritas Prep believes that the GMAT exam offers a more accurate and nuanced assessment of the skills that business schools are looking for, according to feedback from admissions officers across the board and our independent analysis, the two exams are treated equally. Using data published by the business schools, trends clearly show that average GMAT scores and average GRE scores are nearly identical across the board. There is no inherent advantage or disadvantage to applying with a GRE score.[/list]

[*]Across the board, admissions officers use the official ETS score conversion tool to translate GRE scores into equivalent GMAT scores. Because so few candidates apply with a GRE score, the admissions committees don’t have a really strong grasp of the scoring scale. Every school we’ve spoken to uses ETS’ score conversion tool to convert GRE scores to GMAT scores so they may compare applicants fairly. You can use the same tool to see how your scores stack up.[/list]

[*]The GRE is not a differentiator. I get a lot of “traditional” MBA applicants with a management consulting or investment banking background who ask if they should take the GRE. They’re often nervous that their GMAT score won’t stack up against the stiff competition in their fields and hope that the GRE will differentiate them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. If anything, admissions officers may wonder why they chose to take the GRE even though all factors in their career path point toward applying to MBA programs and not any other graduate programs. There’s no need to raise any questions in the mind of the admissions reader when the GMAT is a clear option.[/list]

[*]The GRE isn’t easier, but it’s different. I also see a lot of applicants who struggle with standardized tests who seek to “hide” behind a GRE score because they believe that it’s easier than the GMAT. Even if the content may seem more basic to you, what matters is how you stack up against the competition. Remember that every Masters in Engineering and Mathematics PhD candidate will be taking the GRE, focused solely on the Quant sections. They’re going to knock these sections out of the park without even breaking a sweat. On the other side, English Lit majors and other candidates for humanities-related degrees will be focused exclusively on the Verbal sections, and their grammar abilities are likely to be much better than yours. This means that getting a strong balanced score (which is what MBA admissions officers are looking for) becomes extremely difficult on the GRE. Even if the content feels easier to you, remember that the competition will tough. That said, if you’re struggling with the way the GMAT asks questions, you might find the GRE to be a more straightforward way of assessing your abilities. This can be an advantage to some applicants based on their unique thought process and learning style, but it shouldn’t be seen as a panacea for all test-takers.[/list]

[*]Some schools are GMAT-preferred. For example, Columbia Business School now accepts the GRE, but its website and admissions officers clearly state that they prefer the GMAT. If you’re applying to any business schools that fall into this category, we highly recommend that you take the GMAT unless there’s a very compelling argument for the GRE. One compelling argument might be that you have already scored well on the GRE to attend a master’s program directly out of undergrad and you would prefer not to take another standardized test to now get your MBA. Or perhaps you’re applying to a dual-degree program where the other program requires the GRE. Without a compelling reason otherwise, you should definitely plan to take the GMAT.[/list] Bottom line: We recommend that the GMAT remain your default test if you’re planning to apply to exclusively to business schools. If you really struggle with the style of questions on the GMAT, you might want to explore the GRE as a backup option. In the end, you should simply take the test on which you can get the best score and not worry about trying to game the system.

If you have questions about whether the GMAT or the GRE would be a better option for your individual circumstances, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 1-800-925-7737 or submit your profile information on our website for a free admissions evaluation. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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

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If you’ve ever struggled with algebra, wondered which operations you were allowed to perform, or been upset when you were told that the operation you just performed was incorrect, this post is for you. Algebra is all about equality.

What does that mean?

Consider the statement:

8 = 8

That’s obviously not groundbreaking news, but it does show the underpinnings of what makes algebra “work.” When you use that equals sign, =, you’re saying that what’s on the left of that sign is the exact same value as what’s on the right hand side of that sign. 8 = 8 means “8 is the same exact value as 8.” And then as long as you do the same thing to both 8s, you’ll preserve that equality. So you could subtract 2 from both sides:

8 – 2 = 8 – 2

And you’ll arrive at another definitely-true statement:

6 = 6

And then you could divide both sides by 3:

6/3 = 6/3

And again you’ve created another true statement:

2 = 2

Because you start with a true statement, as proven by that equals sign, as long as you do the exact same thing to what’s on either side of that equals sign, the statement will remain true. So when you replace that with a different equation:

3x + 2 = 8

That’s when the equals sign really helps you. It’s saying that “3x + 2″ is the exact same value as 8. So whatever you do to that 8, as long as you do the same exact thing to the other side, the equation will remain true. Following the same steps, you can:

Subtract two from both sides:

3x = 6

Divide both sides by 3:

x = 2

And you’ve now solved for x. That’s what you’re doing with algebra. You’re taking advantage of that equality: the equals sign guarantees a true statement and allows you to do the exact same thing on either side of that sign to create additional true statements. And your goal then is to use that equals sign to strategically create a true statement that helps you to answer the question that you’re given.

Equality applies to all terms; it cannot single out just one individual term.

Now, where do people go wrong? The most common mistake that people make is that they don’t do the same thing to both SIDES of the inequality. Instead they do the same thing to a term on each side, but they miss a term. For example:

(3x + 5)/7 = x – 9

In order to preserve this equation and eliminate the denominator, you must multiply both SIDES by 7. You cannot multiply just the x on the right by 7 (a common mistake); instead you have to multiply everything on the right by 7 (and of course everything on the left by 7 too):

7(3x + 5)/7 = 7(x – 9)

3x + 5 = 7x – 63

Then subtract 3x from both sides to preserve the equation:

5 = 4x – 63

Then add 63 to both sides to preserve the equation:

68 = 4x

Then divide both sides by 4:

17 = x

The point being: preserving equality is what makes algebra work. When you’re multiplying or dividing in order to preserve that equality, you have to be completely equitable to both sides of the equation: you can’t single out any one term or group. If you’re multiplying both sides by 7, you have to distribute that 7 to both the x and the -9. So when you take the GMAT, do so with equality in mind. The equals sign is what allows you to solve for variables, but remember that you have to do the exact same thing to both sides.

Inequalities? Well those will just have to wait for another day.

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Today we will discuss the flip side of “do not assume anything in Data Sufficiency” i.e. we will discuss “go ahead and assume in Problem Solving!”

Problem solving questions have five definite options, that is, “cannot be determined” and “data not sufficient” are not given as options. So this means that in all cases, data is sufficient for us to answer the question. So as long as the data we assume conforms to all the data given in the question, we are free to assume and make the problem simpler for ourselves. The concept is not new – you have been already doing it all along – every time you assume the total to be 100 in percentage questions or the value of n to be 0 or 1, you are assuming that as long as your assumed data conforms to the data given, the relation should hold for every value of the unknown. So the relation should be the same when n is 0 and also the same when n is 1.

Now all you have to do is go a step further and, using the same concept, assume that the given figure is more symmetrical than may seem. The reason is that say, you want to find the value of x. Since in problem solving questions, you are required to find a single unique value of x, the value will stay the same even if you make the figure more symmetrical – provided it conforms to the given data.

Let us give an example from Official Guide 13th edition to show you what we mean:

Question: In the figure shown, what is the value of v+x+y+z+w?

(A) 45

(B) 90

(C) 180

(D) 270

(E) 360

We see that the leg with the angle w seems a bit narrower – i.e. the star does not look symmetrical. But the good news is that we can assume it to be symmetrical because we are not given that angle w is smaller than the other angles. We can do this because the value of v+x+y+z+w would be unique. So whether w is much smaller than the other angles or almost the same, it doesn’t matter to us. The total sum will remain the same. Whatever is the total sum when w is very close to the other angles, will also be the sum when w is much smaller. So for our convenience, we can assume that all the angles are the same.

Now it is very simple to solve. Imagine that the star is inscribed in a circle.

Now, arc MN subtends the angle w at the circumference of the circle; this angle w will be half of the central angle subtended by MN (by the central angle theorem discussed in your book).

Arc NP subtends angle v at the circumference of the circle; this angle v will be half of the central angle subtended by NP and so on for all the arcs which form the full circle i.e. PQ, QR and RM.

All the central angles combined measure 360 degrees so all the subtended angles w + v + x + y + z will add up to half of it i.e. 360/2 = 180.

Answer (C)

There are many other ways of solving this question including long winded algebraic methods but this is the best method, in my opinion.

This was possible because we assumed that the figure is symmetrical, which we can in problem solving questions!

But beware of question prompts which look like this:

– Which of the following cannot be the value of x?

– Which of the following must be true?

You cannot assume anything here since we are not looking for a unique value that exists. If a bunch of values are possible for x, then x will take different values in different circumstances.

If we know that the unknown has a unique value, then we are free to assume as long as we are working under the constraints of the question. Finally, we would like to mention here that this is a relatively advanced technique. Use it only if you understand fully when and what you can assume.

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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“I want to go to HBS…” I want to go to Stanford…” “I want to go to Wharton…” These are the cries of MBA candidates around the world when contemplating what business schools they want to attend. But these venerable institutions and others like them can’t possibly accept all interested students for a variety of reasons that include space, qualifications, and fit. Every year many students are forced to reevaluate their target school list.

Applicants should approach the school selection process with an open mind and use this as the basis to conduct research on the programs that best align with their unique needs. For some students, profile limitations like GPA, GMAT, or work experience can restrict opportunities at higher ranked programs, so it makes sense to consider all alternatives. Often lower-ranked schools are better aligned with the development needs of certain students. Some of the best programs for areas like entrepreneurship, operations, and supply chain management fall outside of the various rankings done every year. These programs can provide direct pipelines into career paths into these industries of interest.

Location should also be an area of note for aspiring MBAs. For some, targeting a specific location where the applicant wants to reside post-MBA is another smart strategy when identifying the ideal program. This is key because most schools have at the very least strong local recruiting within their geographic area. This strategy will increase the likelihood of landing at a target firm. These schools will often also have stronger alumni networks in their geographic region that trump higher ranked programs, so choose wisely.

A complimentary approach is identifying MBA programs close to target recruiters. For example if a career in Venture Capital is important then the west coast or Silicon Valley in particular should influence the school selection process. Interested in oil and gas? Then researching the local MBA programs in the state of Texas is a no brainer and would make more sense than pursuing admission at some higher rated programs outside the state.

Finally, some students just may not be academically equipped to perform or compete at certain MBA programs. Intense academic rigor, heavy workloads, and cumbersome pre-requisite coursework make some lower ranked programs a more comfortable academic environment.

Don’t be constrained by the various school rankings on the market. Create your own list that allows you to pick the program that makes the most sense for YOU!

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

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

Veritas Prep’s Ravi Sreerama is the #1-ranked GMAT instructor in the world (by GMATClub) and a fixture in the new Veritas Prep Live Online format as well as in Los Angeles-area classrooms. He’s beloved by his students for the philosophy “99th percentile or bust!”, a signal that all students can score in the elusive 99th percentile with the proper techniques and preparation. In this “9 for 99th” videoseries, Ravi shares some of his favorite strategies to efficiently conquer the GMAT and enter that 99th percentile.

Procrastinate to Calculate: in much of your academic and professional life, it’s a terrible idea to procrastinate. But on the GMAT? Procrastination is often the most efficient way to do math. In this video, Ravi will demonstrate why waiting until it’s absolutely necessary to do math is a time-saving and accuracy-boosting strategy. So whatever it is you would be doing right now, put that off for later and immediately watch this video. The sooner you learn that procrastination is your friend on the GMAT, the more time you’ll save.

Want to learn more from Ravi? He’s taking his show on the road for a one-week Immersion Course in New York this summer, and he teaches frequently in our new Live Online classroom.

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

As a high school student, you may have heard about this thing called the “Common Application.” The Common Application is just that; it’s a single undergraduate college application that you can use to apply to over 550 colleges (if you should so choose, however we don’t recommend that you apply to that many!).

The Common Application was created over 40 years ago as a tool for students to access college applications. In the 2014-2015 application season, over 857,000 different students from over 26,000 high schools submitted more than 3.7 million applications to the 500+ member colleges. In addition, teachers and counselors submitted over 14.3 million recommendations and over 913,000 fee waivers were utilized. There are a few updates for the next academic year:

Key changes to the Common Application in 2015-2016

Added 69 new colleges who accept the Common Application

You can print by page rather than waiting until the end to to print the complete application

You can now enter 15 AP courses instead of just 10 AP courses

How you search for your high schools

The FERPA waiver

Essay prompts

Writing requirements

Special Circumstances

Application support feature

How you search for your high schools

In the past, students would search for their high schools by the name of the high school. If you couldn’t find your high school by name, you could manually input your high school. While this solution would allow you to continue the application, the problem was that the Common Application system had no way of connecting your application to the correct high school so that your counselor and recommenders could upload their documents. Going forward, you will now be able to search for your high school by CEEB code so that you can be sure that you have the correct high school on your application and so that all of the components of your application can be seamlessly integrated.

The FERPA Waiver

There has always been a great deal of confusion around waiving the FERPA Release (or not). Most students assume that it’s correct to NOT waive your right to review all recommendations and supporting documents, but most colleges and high schools will want you to waive your rights. It used to be that if you selected the incorrect option the first time, you could not change the option once you realized the error. Going forward, you can change your FERPA selection at any time prior to the recommendations being submitted.

Essay Prompts

The essay prompt that asked about “a place where you feel perfectly content” was replaced with a new prompt that focuses more on analytical skills and intellectual curiosity. The other prompts remain the same with the exception of a few small wording changes. The new prompt is as follows:

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

Writing Requirements

Colleges can now choose whether or not they require the personal essay. This means that you will have the option of choosing to send your essay to a college that does not require it, or not sending the essay to a college because they don’t require it. The Common Application made a couple of adjustments so that it’s much clearer which schools require essays and which do not.

One other big change for the upcoming year is that you now make unlimited edits to your essay rather than the 2 edits you were limited to before. According to the Common Application, “the essay will remain editable for all applicants, at any time.”

Special Circumstances

For explanations for education interruption, disciplinary situations, or criminal history, the information used to be collected in one general text field. Going forward, these explanations will be collected as independent explanations so they’re not all lumped in under one prompt.

Application Support

Currently, you can access many help items via the Applicant Help center. This knowledge base has extensive information that is searchable and provides many of the answers to frequently asked questions. Going forward, you will have access to an Applicant Chat and solution center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! This may come in handy if you find yourself working on the applications late at night, on the weekends, or over holidays!

For more information about the Common Application directly from the organization, follow the Common App blog! Best of luck in your college applications!

If you would like to learn about your strengths and areas for improvement as well as how to improve your college profile, complete our free profile evaluation form and get personalized advice on your profile!

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 Reading Passage is difficult for two reasons: the passages are often complex and you aren’t given much time to read and answer all of the questions. As I tell my students, one of the most effective ways to deal with this conflict between absorbing the main ideas in the passage and finishing the questions in the allotted time is reading strategically.

Reading strategically involves reading parts of the passage that contain the author’s main ideas, such as the introductory paragraphs, and reading parts of the passage that are specifically cited by the questions, all while answering questions as you go.

If you follow this technique, you often won’t have to reread the passage, because you’ll be answering questions that correspond to the parts of the passage that you just read. In fact, if you follow Veritas Prep SAT techniques, you will only have to reread the passage in one circumstance: when you are stuck between answer choices, and you cannot find any unambiguous problems in the remaining answer choices. Unambiguous problems in answer choices include assumptions or information not discussed in the passage, or hyperbolic descriptions of an element in the passage. In such circumstances, here’s what you should do:

1. Cross out the obviously incorrect answer choices. That way, when you come back to the question later, you won’t have to reread incorrect answer choices.

2. Skip the question – for now! All questions are worth the same amount of points. Don’t waste time on a tricky question.

3. Continue to answer remaining questions. It’s better to answer as many questions as you can. And sometimes, the information you need to answer the tricky question is in fact located later in the passage!

4. Return to any skipped questions after completing the section. Reread relevant paragraphs that cover the main subjects also referenced in the question. For example, if I had been stuck on the following question:

The author mentions the Blackfeet (lines 34-40) primarily because:

(A) they appreciated the plains

(B) they were experts in using the resources of the rivers

(C) they cared about the ecology of the plants

(D) river travelers learned a lot from them

(E) local people were in awe of them

Then I would want to reread lines 34-40:

The Blackfeet, the lords of the Great Plains and the prairie’s most serious students, would no sooner have dined on catfish then we would on a dish of fricasseed sewer rat. The mucus-covered creatures of the muddy river bottoms, the Blackfeet thought, were simply not the best the plains had to offer; far from being palatable, catfish were repulsive, disgusting.

Let’s say that in my first go-around, I’d crossed out C, D, and E, because the lines do not mention ecology, travelers, or local people. In this case, rereading can help me choose between A and B – neither of which have unambiguous problems – because I can now pay attention to lines that I’d only skimmed before, such as the description of the Blackfeet as the prairie’s “most serious students”. The correct answer in this case is A. The Blackfeet clearly used the plains for food, but their use of rivers is not mentioned.

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

MIT Sloan recently released its admissions essay and deadlines for the Class of 2018. While hardly any top business schools have cut essays this year (after several years of doing so), Sloan actually did cut an essay, going down to just one required essay this year. But, here’s a twist: The Sloan admissions team has added a second essay just for those who are invited to interview. So, you’re still going to need to write two strong essays to get into Sloan, and we break down the essay prompts below.

Here are MIT Sloan’s essays and deadlines for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:

MIT Sloan Admissions Deadlines

Round 1: September 17, 2015

Round 2: January 14, 2016

Round 3: April 11, 2016

Several noteworthy things here… First, Sloan’s Round 1 deadline has moved up by almost a week, pushing into mid-September for the first time ever. And, the school’s Round 2 deadline comes almost a week later than it did last year. If you apply to Sloan in Round 1, you will get your decision by December 16, which will give you plenty of time to get Round 2 applications ready for other MBA programs, if needed.

The other interesting thing here is that Sloan has added a Round 3! For a while, Sloan had been unique among top U.S. business schools in that it only had two admissions rounds. For instance, last year, if you hadn’t applied by January 8, then you weren’t going to apply to Sloan at all. Now stragglers actually have a chance of getting into MIT Sloan, although our advice about Round 3 is always the same — there are simply fewer seats available by Round 3, so only truly standout applicants have a real chance of getting in. Plan on applying in Round 1 or 2 to maximize your chances of success.

MIT Sloan Admissions Essays

Tell us about a recent success you had: How did you accomplish this? Who else was involved? What hurdles did you encounter? What type of impact did this have? (500 words)

This question is new to MIT Sloan’s application this year. What we like about it is how it very explicitly spells out what Sloan’s admissions team wants to see. For these types of questions, we always advise applicants to use the “SAR” method — spell out the Situation, the Action that you took, and the Results of those actions. There is no hard and fast rule for how many words you should devote to each section, but the situation is where you want to use up the fewest words; you need to set the stage, but with only 500 words to work with, you want to make sure that you give the bare minimum of background and then move on to what actions you took. And, make sure you leave enough room to discuss the result (“What type of impact did this have?”) Your individual actions and the impact that you had are what the admissions committee really wants to see.

One final thought here: Don’t only think about the impact that you had on your organization, but also spend some time thinking about the impact that the experience had on you. What did you learn? How did you grow as a result? And, how did you put this lesson to work in a later experience? That may be a challenge to fit into a 500-word essay, but this is the type of introspection and growth that any business school admissions committee loves to see.

For those who are invited to interview: The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice. Please share with us something about your past that aligns with this mission. (250 words)

The wording of this prompt has changed slightly since last year, but the biggest change (other than the fact that it’s become the essay only for those invited to interview) is that the word count has dropped from 500 to 250 words. At its core, this is a “Why MIT Sloan?” question. The admissions committee wants to see that you have done your homework on Sloan, that you understand what the school stands for, and that you really want to be there.

When Sloan asks you to share something that “aligns with” its mission, it’s not just asking about what you will do while you’re in school for two years, but also about how you plan on taking what you’ve learned (and the connections you’ve built) and going farther than you could ever have without an MIT Sloan MBA. Note the very last part of the question: The key to a believable essay here will be to cite a specific example from your past when you got involved and make things better around you. Don’t be intimidated by the high-minded ideals in the first part of the essay prompt — making an impact (rather than just standing idly by and being a follower) is what they want to see here, even if it’s on a relatively small scale.

The MIT Sloan MBA admissions team just posted a brief video that has some good basic advice on how to tackle their essays. There are no huge “Ah ha!” moments in the video, but it’s always good to hear advice straight from the course.

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

As you get closer and closer to leaving home and embarking on your first year in college, you’re going to hear more and more advice from your parents about what to do and what not to do once September rolls around. If you’re anything like I was at the age of 17, you’ll reassure your parents with a couple of nods, and then completely forget what they said. (You, of course, have more important things to do, like checking Kim Kardashian’s latest tweets).

To be fair, parents do tend to give an overwhelming amount of advice, especially when their little girl or boy is leaving the nest, so it can be hard to know what advice is worth listening to, and what’s just your parents’ anxieties speaking. As someone who’s been through college and who has chatty parents who still swamp me with advice every time I call home, here’s my two cents: if nothing else, pay attention to your parents’ advice about how to stay healthy and avoid falling sick in college.

I was very healthy as a child and teenager (never had the chicken pox, never missed class during flu season, ran track every day, etc.) so during my first two years of college when my mom would call me up to remind me to eat my greens, get a good night’s sleep, get my flu shot in November, and on and on, I didn’t take her very seriously. Unfortunately, I had to learn from experience: it was only after I had caught the flu both freshman and sophomore year, suffered from a month of insomnia, and caught mono (which was so debilitating that I had to drop classes and stop working out for three months), that I began to listen to my parents.

What I didn’t initially understand was that I was now living in a very different environment than the California suburbs I’d grown up in. Instead of eating the vegetables my mom would have cooked every evening, I was eating pizza and bagels (the only edible food in my school’s cafeteria); instead of quietly studying in my bedroom and going to sleep by midnight, I hanging out in the dorm common room until 4AM; instead of living with my parents and two sisters, I was living around hundreds of other students who, like me, stayed up late and ate poorly.

Because college students, especially freshman and sophomores, tend to live in close quarters, you can imagine what happens when one student gets the flu; half of the students in his or her hallway get it too.

You don’t know it yet, but you’re going to have so many awesome and profound experiences in college that are going to shape who you become as an adult. One of those experiences is learning how to take care of yourself, a large part of which involves heeding good advice. So, when your parents give you tips on how to get your daily greens and a healthy night’s sleep while juggling a full college schedule, put down your phone and listen up! And no matter how busy you are, get that flu shot!

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Interpreting what is being asked on a question is arguably the most important skill required in order to perform well on the GMAT. After all, since the topics are taken from high school level material, and the test is designed to be difficult for college graduates, the difficulty must often come from more than just the material. In fact, it is very common on the GMAT to find that you got “the right answer to the wrong question.” This phrase is so well-known that it merits quotation marks (and eventually perhaps its own reality show).

What does this expression really mean? (Rhetorical question) It means that you followed the logic and executed the calculations properly, but you inputted the wrong parameters. As an example, a problem could ask you to solve a problem about the price of a dozen eggs, but along the way, you have to calculate the price of a single egg. If you’re going too fast and you notice that there’s an answer choice that matches your result, you might be tempted to pick it without executing the final calculation of multiplying the unit price by twelve. While this expression is often used for math problems, the same concept can also be applied to the verbal section of the exam.

The question category that most often exploits erroneous interpretations of a question is Critical Reasoning. In particular, the method of reasoning subcategory appropriately named “Mimic the Reasoning”. These types of questions are reminiscent of SAT questions (or LSAT questions for some) and hinge on properly interpreting what is actually stated in the problem.

Let’s look at an example to highlight this issue:

Nick: The best way to write a good detective story is to work backward from the crime. The writer should first decide what the crime is and who the perpetrator is, and then come up with the circumstances and clues based on those decisions.

Which one of the following illustrates a principle most similar to that illustrated by the passage?

A) When planning a trip, some people first decide where they want to go and then plan accordingly, but, for most of us, much financial planning must be done before we can choose where we are going.

B) In planting a vegetable garden, you should prepare the soil first, and then decide what kind of vegetables to plant.

C) Good architects do not extemporaneously construct their plans in the course of an afternoon; an architectural design cannot be divorced from the method of constructing the building.

D) In solving mathematical problems, the best method is to try out as many strategies as possible in the time allotted. This is particularly effective if the number of possible strategies is fairly small.

E) To make a great tennis shot, you should visualize where you want the shot to go. Then you can determine the position you need to be in to execute the shot properly.

This type of question is asking us to mimic, or copy, the line of reasoning even though the topic may be totally different. The issue is thus to interpret the passage, paraphrase the main ideas in our own words, and then determine which answer choice is analogous to our summary. Theoretically, there could be thousands of correct answers to a question like this, but the GMAT will provide us with four examples to knock out and one correct interpretation (though sometimes it feels like a needle in a haystack).

Let’s look at the original sentence again and try to interpret Nick’s point. The first sentence is: The best way to write a good detective story is to work backward from the crime. This means that, wherever we want to go, we should recognize that we should start at the end and work our way backwards. This is a similar principle as solving a maze (or reading “Of Mice and Men”). The second sentence is: The writer should first decide what the crime is and who the perpetrator is, and then come up with the circumstances and clues based on those decisions. This means that, once we know the ending, we can layer the text with hints so that the ending makes sense to the audience. Astute readers may even guess the ending based on the clues (R+L = J), and will feel rewarded for their keen observations.

Summarizing this idea, the author wants us to start at the end and work our way backwards so that we end up exactly where we want. The next step is to apply this logic to each answer choice in turn:

For answer choice A, when planning a trip, some people first decide where they want to go and then plan accordingly, but, for most of us, much financial planning must be done before we can choose where we are going, the first part about choosing a destination is perfect. However, the second part goes off the rails by introducing a previously unheralded concept: limitations. The author was not initially worried about limitations, financial or otherwise, so answer choice A is half right, which is not enough on this test. We can eliminate A.

Answer choice B, in planting a vegetable garden, you should prepare the soil first, and then decide what kind of vegetables to plant. While this is good general advice, it has nothing to do with our premise. Starting with the soil is the very definition of starting at the beginning. A more correct (plant-based) answer choice would state that we want to start with which plants we want in the garden and then work backwards to find the right soil. This is incorrect, so answer choice B is out.

Answer choice C, good architects do not extemporaneously construct their plans in the course of an afternoon; an architectural design cannot be divorced from the method of constructing the building, changes the timeline (much like Terminator Genysis). We must consider both issues simultaneously, which is not what the original passage postulated. We can eliminate answer choice C.

Answer choice D is: in solving mathematical problems, the best method is to try out as many strategies as possible in the time allotted. This is particularly effective if the number of possible strategies is fairly small. This is not only incorrect, but particularly bad advice for aspiring GMAT students. In fact, the author is describing backsolving, because we are starting at the answer and working our way backwards. We are not proposing “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks”. Answer D is out.

This leaves answer choice E, to make a great tennis shot, you should visualize where you want the shot to go. Then you can determine the position you need to be in to execute the shot properly. Not only must it be the correct answer given that we’ve eliminated the other four selections, but also it perfectly recreates the logic of planning backwards from the end. Answer choice E is the correct selection.

For method of reasoning questions, and on the GMAT in general, it’s very important to be able to interpret wording. If you cannot paraphrase the statements presented, then you won’t be able to easily eliminate incorrect answer choices. Part of acing the GMAT is not giving away easy points on questions that you actually know how to solve. If you read carefully and paraphrase concepts as they come up, you’ll be interpreting a high score on test day.

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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You’re looking at a Data Sufficiency problem and you’re feeling the pressure. You’re midway through the GMAT Quantitative section and your mind is spinning from the array of concepts and questions that have been thrown at you. You know you nailed that tricky probability question a few problems earlier and you hope you got that last crazy geometry question right. When you look at Statement 1 your mind draws a blank: whether it’s too many variables or too many numbers or too tricky a concept, you just can’t process it. So you look at Statement 2 and feel relief. It’s nowhere near sufficient, as just about anyone even considering graduate school would know immediately. So you smile as you cross off choices A and D on your noteboard, saying to yourself: “Good, at least I have a 33% chance now.”

You’re better than that.

Too often on Data Sufficiency problems, people are impressed by giving themselves a 33% or even 50% chance of success. Keep in mind that guessing one of three remaining choices means you’re probably going to get that problem wrong! And of more strategic importance is this: if one statement is dead obvious, you haven’t just raised your probability of guessing correctly – you should have just learned what the question is all about!

If a Data Sufficiency statement is clearly insufficient, it’s arguably the most important part of the problem.

Consider this example:

What is the value of integer z?

(1) z represents the remainder when positive integer x is divided by positive integer (x – 1)

(2) x is not a prime number

Many examinees will be thrilled here to see that statement 2 is nowhere near sufficient, therefore meaning that the answer must be A, C, or E – a 33% chance of success! But a more astute test-taker will look closer at statement 2 and think “this problem is likely going to come down to whether it matters that x is prime or not” and then use that information to hold Statement 2 up to that light.

For statement 1, many will test x = 5 and (x – 1) = 4 or x = 10 and (x – 1) = 9 and other combinations of that ilk, and see that the result is usually (always?) 1 remainder 1. But a more astute test-taker will see that word “prime” and ask themselves why a prime would matter. And in listing a few interesting primes, they’ll undoubtedly check 2 and realize that if x = 2 and (x – 1) = 1, the result is 1 with a remainder of 0 – a different answer than the 1, remainder 1 that usually results from testing values for x. So in this case statement 2 DOES matter, and the answer has to be C.

Try this other example:

What is the value of x?

(1) x(x + 1) = 2450

(2) x is odd

Again, someone can easily skip ahead to statement 2 and be thrilled that they’re down to three options, but it pays to take that statement and file it as a consideration for later: when I get my answer for statement 1, is there a reason that even vs. odd would matter? If I get an odd solution, is there a possible even one?

Factoring 2450 leaves you with consecutive integers 49 and 50, so x could be 49 and therefore odd. But is there any possible even value for x, a number exactly one smaller than (x + 1) where the product of the two is still 2450? There is: -50 and -49 give you the same product, and in that case x is even. So statement 2 again is critical to get the answer C.

And the lesson? A ridiculously easy statement typically holds much more value than “oh this is easy to eliminate.” So when you can quickly and effortlessly make your decision on a Data Sufficiency statement, don’t be too happy to take your slightly-increased odds of a correct answer and move on. Use that statement to give you insight into how to attack the other statement, and take your probability of a correct answer all the way up to “certain.”

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Sometimes, to solve some tough questions, we need to make inferences. Those inferences may not be apparent at first but once you practice, they do become intuitive. Today we will discuss one such inference based high level question of an official GMAT practice test.

Question: In a village of 100 households, 75 have at least one DVD player, 80 have at least one cell phone, and 55 have at least one MP3 player. If x and y are respectively the greatest and lowest possible number of households that have all three of these devices, x – y is:

(A) 65

(B) 55

(C) 45

(D) 35

(E) 25

Solution: We need to find the value of x – y

What is x? It is the greatest possible number of households that have all three devices

What is y? It is the lowest possible number of households that have all three devices

Say there are 100 households and we have three sets:

Set DVD including 75 households

Set Cell including 80 households

Set MP3 including 55 households

We need to find the values of x and y to get x – y.

We need to maximise the overlap of all three sets to get the value of x and we need to minimise the overlap of all three sets to get the value of y.

Maximum number of households that have all three devices:

We want to bring the circles to overlap as much as possible.

The smallest set is the MP3 set which has 55 households. Let’s make it overlap with both DVD set and Cell set. These 55 households are the maximum that can have all 3 things. The rest of the 45 households will definitely not have an MP3 player. Hence the value of x must be 55.

Note here that the number of households having no device may or may not be 0 (it doesn’t concern us anyway but confuses people sometimes). There are 75 – 55 = 20 households that have DVD but no MP3 player. There are 80 – 55 = 25 households that have Cell phone but no MP3 player. So they could make up the rest of the 45 households (20 + 25) such that these 45 households have exactly one device or there could be an overlap in them and hence there may be some households with no device. In the figure we show the case where none = 0.

Now, let’s focus on the value of y i.e. minimum number of households with all three devices:

How will we do that? Before we delve into it, let us consider a simpler example:

Say you have 3 siblings (A,B and C) and 5 chocolates which you want to distribute among them in any way you wish. Now you want to minimise the number of your siblings who get 3 chocolates. No one gets more than 3. What do you do?

Will you leave out one sibling without any chocolates (even if he did rat you out to your folks!)? No. Because if one sibling gets no chocolates, the other siblings get more chocolates and then more of them will get 3 chocolates. So instead you give 1 to each and then give the leftover 2 to 2 of them (one each). This way, no sibling gets 3 chocolates and you have successfully minimised the number of siblings who get 3 chocolates. Basically, you spread out the goodies to ensure that minimum people get too many of them.

This is the same concept.

When you want to minimise the overlap, you basically want to spread the goodies around. You want minimum people to have all three. So you give at least one to all of them. Here there will be no household which has no device. Every household will have at least one device.

So you have 80 households which have cell phone. The rest of the 20 households say, have a DVD player so the leftover 55 households (75 – 20) with DVD player will have both a cell phone and a DVD player. There are 55 households who already have two devices and 45 households with just one device.

Now how will you distribute the MP3 players such that the overlap between all three is minimum? Give the MP3 players to the households which have just one device so 45 MP3 player households are accounted for. But we still need to distribute 10 more MP3 players. These 10 will fall on the 55 overlap of the previous two sets. Hence there are a minimum of 10 households which will have all three devices. This means y = 10

x – y = 55 – 10 = 45

Answer (C)

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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Can you retake the GRE? This is one of the many questions we hear from our students at Veritas Prep. Even if a student hasn’t yet taken the test, they want to know if there is an option to improve on a score. The simple answer to that question is yes. But this leads to another important question: “Should I retake the GRE?”

At Veritas Prep, we offer thorough prep courses online that provide students with valuable strategies to help them to perform well on the GRE. Take a look at some information that students should keep in mind as they decide whether to retake the GRE.

Should I Retake the GRE?

Students who retake the GRE must pay the substantial test fee a second time and invest more hours and effort into the preparation process. So it’s a good idea for a student to have several solid reasons before retaking the GRE. One example of a valid reason for retaking the test is that the student was ill on test day. If a student was suffering from the flu or a bad cold and had a lot of trouble focusing on the test questions, these circumstances could lead the student to earn low scores on the GRE.

Another valid reason for retaking the GRE is a lack of preparation. If a student takes the GRE without completing any practice tests or dedicating any time to study, the student could earn very low scores due to this lack of preparation. If a student can take the test under different circumstances or make specific changes that affect test performance, then it’s worth it to retake the GRE. Students who want to feel prepared for every part of the GRE should sign up to study with a professional instructor at Veritas Prep. We offer valuable tips to students that they can utilize on every section of the test. Our instructors provide guided practice to students so they know how to approach each question on test day.

Researching College Admission Requirements

There is something else a student should do before registering to retake the GRE. They should check the specific admission requirements of the graduate schools they are interested in. In many instances, colleges and universities post the average GRE scores of their graduate students. Perhaps a student’s GRE scores on the first test are adequate for admission to the college they want to attend. If that’s the case, there is no valid reason to invest money and time into retaking the GRE.

How Often Can You Take the GRE?

Once a student decides to retake the test, they may wonder, how often can you take the GRE? Students are allowed to take the computer-based GRE one time every 21 days. Alternatively, if a student takes the paper-based GRE, they can take it whenever it is offered. Students who want to retake the GRE should allow themselves enough time to adequately prepare for the second go-round. This means addressing specific problems a student had the first time and taking steps to correct them.

How Many Times Can I Take the GRE?

Students interested in retaking this test may ask, “How many times can I take the GRE?” Students are able to take the GRE up to five times per year. This holds true even if a student decides to cancel their scores on a previous GRE. Of course, students should put forth their best performance the first time they take the test so they don’t have to go through the entire process again for the chance to earn better scores.

Can you retake the GRE with success? Yes.

Our team at Veritas Prep takes pride in providing students with a thorough program of GRE prep so they can perform at their best on the exam. Our instructors have experience with the test and can offer unique and practical advice to students. Those who want to know more about our program can find quick answers to common questions on our FAQ page. We are proud to use quality study resources to help students achieve their best scores on the GRE. Contact our staff today and get the advantage on the test with Veritas Prep!

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Pursuing an MBA can be one of the toughest decisions a young professional has to make, some rush the decision and realize they are not quite ready for showtime come application season or even worse during their time in b-school.

Self-assessment is the key when it comes to making this decision.

Consider the four aspects listed below as you decide whether you should pursue an MBA right now:

Maturity:

Are you personally and professionally ready to make the most of an MBA? This question is not the same as could you get into business school, but is right now the ideal time for you and your career. MBA programs are looking to admit mature candidates who know exactly what they want out of the experience. So make sure you take personal inventory of your situation before you make a decision. Keep in mind age is not the only indicator of maturity, however; the average age of admits ranges between 27-30 so programs are looking for experienced applicants.

Accomplishments:

MBA programs are looking for the best and the brightest young professionals from around the world, so competition is stiff! Do you have the accomplishments befitting a top flight MBA admit? This is the time when you must honestly assess your candidacy. This involves looking at your academic, professional, and civic accomplishments and ascertaining the interpersonal skills you have developed and impact you have made thus far in your career.

Financial:

Are you financially ready to take on the commitment of business school? With tuition from many programs well into the six figures, the cost of an MBA is rising year after year. Options like student loans, scholarships, and fellowships do exist so make sure to factor these into any potential projections. Also, make sure your decision to pursue admission is based on holistic reasons and not simply to make more money.

Time:

Do you have the time to put together a compelling application? The entire business school application process is very time intensive. From school research to GMAT prep to writing those pesky essays, applying to business school is a major commitment.

Utilize the tips above to help you decide if right now is the best time for you to apply to business school.

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

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A worry I often hear from my students is that despite the fact that they’ve taken numerous practice tests and learned new test-taking strategies, there’s just one section on the SAT that they haven’t achieved their dream score on. With only a few weeks until the SAT, a student will nervously reveal that although she’s improved on both the Writing and the Math Sections, her Reading scores haven’t jumped up. This student is especially confused because their study practices have been effective in all other areas – so why, they ask me, am I getting stuck only in this section?

Of course, every student studies differently, so working with a tutor or a parent who can observe your study methods and your test-taking habits often proves to be an enormous benefit. At the same time, in my two years of teaching the SAT, I’ve noticed that many students make the same mistake when it comes to tackling a “problem section” – they overdo it. The student who keeps missing questions involving circles and triangles, it turns out, spent hours last Sunday first rereading his notes from the in-class geometry review, then reviewing questions he’d missed on previous practice tests, and then finally squeezing in a practice math section before he began to work on the back-breaking load of chemistry homework due on Monday. The student who’s been struggling on the Reading Section has stopped studying Math and Writing altogether, and now does back-to-back practice Reading sections.

There are a few problems with ‘marathon’ and ‘single-focus’ study sessions like these. The first, and arguably most important, is that your brain simply isn’t built to pay attention to a difficult task for more than approximately one hour. This is because your brain has two main ways of functioning: focusing and daydreaming. (The science-y terms for these two modes are: “task-positive network” and the “task-negative network”, as described in this cool article from the New York Times.

After enough time focusing on anything that requires brain-power, whether that’s studying SAT Reading questions, or, as discussed in the NY-Times article, arguing with your siblings over whose turn it is to do the dishes, your brain is going to switch from focus-mode to daydreaming-mode, and you won’t be able to pay attention to what’s in front of you.

I know that when the SAT is a few weeks away, you feel like you should spend every spare moment working on your problem area; however, you’ll find that if you divide your “marathon sessions” into manageable chunks, you will be able to think more clearly when you study. That’s why I tell my nervous students – much to their surprise – that I want them to study less and to relax more. Rather than study for four straight hours, I say, study for an hour, and then take a 15 minute break – whether that’s going for a walk around the block, listening to a few songs, or having a healthy snack. Repeat this hour of studying followed by 15 minutes of relaxing two to three times, and then do something entirely different, such as going on a jog.

The second big problem with studying one type of question or one section for many hours at a time, without breaks, is that you’ll stress yourself out. I’m not kidding! You are already going to feel nervous if you’re not scoring as high as you’d like on a certain section on the SAT, and if you sit at your desk studying only the questions you feel the worst about for hours on end, you may continue to perform poorly even after learning new problem-solving techniques, because you will be too stressed to form new habits. Many of you are at the age when you are learning to drive: imagine if every time you practiced driving at night, your mom made you drive for five straight hours, in the heavy rain, without stopping – not even to go to the bathroom! Eventually, you wouldn’t want to drive at all. So, during a SAT study session, if you miss a bunch of problems on the Reading Section, sometimes it’s better to spend your next hour studying Math questions (or questions from whichever section you feel more confident doing), and then returning to studying the Reading Section, rather than continuously doing something you find stressful.

You may have heard the saying, “Stop and Smell the Roses.” When it comes to studying for the SAT, doing just that can make all the difference

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It is a common axiom that the best strategy in any competition is to attack your opponent at his weakest point. If you’ve been studying for the GMAT for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that not all Data Sufficiency statements are created equal. At times the statements are mind-bendingly complex. Other times we can evaluate a statement almost instantaneously, without needing to simplify or calculate.

Anytime you’re confronted with a question that offers one complex statement and one simple statement, you’ll want to attack the question at its weakest point and start with the simpler of the two. Evaluating the easier statement will not only allow you to eliminate some wrong answer choices, but will offer insights into what might be happening in the more complex statement. (And generally speaking, whenever you’re confronted with this dynamic, it is more often than not the case that the complex statement is sufficient on its own.)

Let’s apply this strategic thinking to a complex-looking official problem*:

You can see immediately that the first statement is a tough one. So let’s start with statement 2. In natural language, it’s telling us that ‘x’ is less than 5 units away from 0 on the number line. So x could be 4, in which case, the answer to the question “Is x >1?” would be YES. But x could also be 0, in which case the answer to the question would be NO, x is not greater than 1. So statement 2 is not sufficient, and we barely had to think. Now we can know that the answer cannot be that 2 Alone is sufficient and it cannot be Either Alone is sufficient.

Now take a moment and think about this from the perspective of the question writer. It’s obvious that statement 2 is not sufficient. Why bother going to the trouble of producing such a complex statement 1 if this too is not sufficient? This isn’t to say that we know for a fact that statement 1 will be sufficient alone, but I’m certainly suspicious that this will be the case.

When evaluating statement 1, we’ll use some easy numbers. Say x = 100. That will clearly satisfy the statement as (100+1)(|100| – 1) is greater than 0. Because 100 is greater than 1, we have a YES to the question, “Is x >1?” Now the question is: is it possible to pick a number that isn’t greater than one, but that will satisfy our statement? What if x = 1? Plugging into the statement, we’ll get (1+1)(|1| – 1) or (2)*(0), which is 0. Well, that doesn’t satisfy the statement, so we cannot use x = 1. (Note that we must satisfy the statement before we test the original question!) What if x = -1? Now we’ll have: (-1+1)(|-1| – 1) = 0. Again, we haven’t satisfied the statement. Maybe you’d test ½. Maybe you’d test -3. But you’ll find that no number that is not greater than 1 will satisfy the statement. Therefore x has to be greater than 1, and statement 1 alone is sufficient. The answer is A.

Alternatively, we can think of statement 1 like this: anytime we multiply two expressions together to get a positive number, it must be the case that both expressions are positive or both expressions are negative. In this statement, it’s easy to make (x+1) and (|x| – 1) both positive. Just pick any number greater than 1. However, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, we can immediately see that x=1 will make the second term 0, and x = -1 will make the first term 0. Multiplying 0 by anything will give us 0, so we can rule those options out. Moreover, we can quickly see that any number between -1 and 1 (not inclusive) will make (|x| – 1) negative and make (x+1) positive, so that range won’t work. And any term less than -1 will made (x+1) negative and (|x| – 1) positive, so that range won’t work either. The only values for x that will satisfy the condition must be greater than 1. Therefore the answer to the question is always YES, and statement 1 alone is sufficient to answer the question.

The takeaway: this question became a lot easier once we tested statement 2, saw that it obviously would not work on its own, and became suspicious that the complex-looking statement 1 would be sufficient alone. Once we’ve established this mindset, we can rely on our conventional strategies of picking numbers or using number properties to prove our intuition. Anytime the GMAT does you the favor of giving you a simple-looking statement, take advantage of that favor and adjust your strategic thinking accordingly.

*GMAT Prep question courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

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

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Everyone who writes the GMAT must speak English to some degree. Since English is the default language of business, the GMAT is administered exclusively in that language. Some people feel that this is unfair. If you take an exam in your mother tongue, you tend to do better than if you took the exam in your second, third or even fourth language (I consider Klingon as my fourth language). However, even if you’re a native English speaker, the GMAT offers many linguistic challenges that make many people feel that they don’t actually speak the language. (¿Habla GMAT?)

There are different ways of asking the same thing on the GMAT. Sometimes, the question is simply: Find the value of x. Other times, you get a convoluted story that summarizes to: Find the value of x. While these two questions are essentially the same, and both have the same answer, the first scenario is easier for most students to understand than the second scenario. This is because the second question is exactly the first question but with an extra step at the beginning (watch your step!), and if you don’t solve the first step, you never even get to the crux of the question.

Consider the following two problems. The first one simply asks you to divide 96 by 6. Even without a calculator, this question should take no more than 30 seconds to solve. Now consider a similar prompt: “Sally goes to the store to buy 7 dozen eggs. When she leaves the store, she accidentally drops one carton containing 12 eggs. Unable to salvage any, she goes back into the store and buys two more cartons of 12 eggs each. Once home, she separates the eggs into bags of 6, in order to save space in the fridge. How many bags of eggs does Sally make?”

The second prompt is exactly the same as the first question, but takes much longer to read through, execute rudimentary math of (7 x 12 – 12 + 24) / 6, and yield a final answer of 16. Anyone who can solve the first question should be able to solve the second question, but fewer students answer the second question correctly. Between the two is the fine art of translating GMATese (patent pending) to a simple mathematical formula. Even for native English speakers, this can be difficult, and is often the difference between getting the correct answer and getting the right answer to a different question.

Let’s look at such a question that looks like it needs to be deciphered by a team of translators:

“X and Y are both integers. If X / Y = 59.32, then what is the sum of all the possible two digit remainders of X / Y?”

A) 560

B) 616

C) 672

D) 900

E) 1024

While this question may appear to be giving you a simple formula, it’s not that easy to interpret what is being asked. One integer is being divided by another, and the result is a quotient and a remainder. The remainder is then only one of multiple possible remainders, and all these possible remainders must be summed up to give a single value. The GMAT isn’t giving us a story on this question, but there’s a lot to chew on.

First off, the quotient doesn’t actually matter in this equation. X / Y = 59.32, but it could have been 29.32 or 7.32 or any other integer quotient, the only thing we care about is the remainder. This means that essentially X/Y is 0.32, and we must find possible values for that. Clearly, X could be 32 and Y could be 100, thus leaving a remainder of 32 and the equivalent of the fractional component of 0.32 in the quotient. This could work, and is two digits, which means that it’s one possible remainder on the list that we must sum up.

What could we do next? Well if 32/100 works, then all other fractional values that can be simplified from that proportion should work as well. This means that 16/50, which is half of the original fraction, should work as well. If we divide by 2 again, we get 8/25. This value satisfies the fraction of the quotient, but not the requirement that it must be two digits. We cannot count 8 as a possible remainder, but this does help open up the pattern of the remainders.

The fraction 8/25 is the key to solving all the other fractions, because it cannot be reduced any further. From 8/25, every time we increase the numerator by 8, we can increase the denominator by 25, and we will maintain the same fractional value. As such, we can have 16/50, 24/75, 32/100, 40/125, etc, without changing the value of the fraction. How far do we need to go? Well the question is asking for 2-digit remainders, so we only need to increase the numerator by 8 until it is no longer 2-digits. The denominator can be truncated, because when it comes to 40/125, all the question wants is 40.

Once we understand what this question is really asking for, it just wants the sum of all the 2-digit multiples of 8. There aren’t that many, so you can write them all down if you want to: 16, 24, 32, 40, 48, 56, 64, 72, 80, 88 and 96. Outside this range, the numbers are no longer 2-digits. This whole question could have been rewritten as: “Sum up the 2-digit multiples of 8” and we would have saved a lot of time (more than last month’s leap second brouhaha).

Solving for our summation is simple when we have a calculator, but there is a handy shortcut for these kinds of calculations. Since the numbers are consecutive multiples of 8, all we need to do is find the average and multiply by the number of terms. The average is the (biggest + smallest) / 2, which becomes (96 + 16) / 2 = 56. From there, we wrote out 11 terms, so it’s just 56 x 11 = 616, answer choice B.

It’s worth mentioning that there’s a formula for the number of terms as well: Take the biggest number, subtract the smallest number, divide by the frequency, and then add back 1 to account for the endpoints. This becomes ((96 – 16) /8) + 1, or (80 / 8) + 1 or 10 + 1, which is just 11. If you only have about a dozen terms to sum up, it’s not hard to consider writing each one down, but if you had to sum up the 3-digit multiples of 8, you wouldn’t spend hours writing out all the different values (hint: there are 112). It’s always better to know the formula, just in case.

On the GMAT, you’re often faced with questions that end up throwing curveballs at you. Interpreting what the question is looking for is half the difficulty, and solving the equations in a relatively short amount of time is the other half. If all the questions were written in straight forward mathematical terms, the exam would be significantly easier. As it is, you want to make sure that you don’t give away easy points on questions that you know how to solve. On test day, the exam will ask you: “¿Habla GMAT?” and your answer should be a resounding “¡si!”

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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One of the most anxious days for many candidates is the release of applications for their target schools. Candidates nervously obsess over all aspects of what to expect from a school’s yearly changes in the application process. So when the new applications are released it is an exciting day and signals the official start of a school’s application season.

Even if applications aren’t quite released, you can still start thinking about how to get rolling once applications are live.

Now there is no one size fits all approach to making the most of those summer months but see below for some things to consider as you start mapping out your game plan:

1. Develop Mini-Stories

One of the most helpful aspects to have prepared before essays are released is your mini-stories. The focus of these mini-stories is to highlight your strongest and most in-depth personal, professional, and extra-curricular life experiences. These anecdotes will feed right into the essays once topics are released allowing you to mix and match appropriately.

2. Confirm School List

Prior to the kickoff of application season, your school list should be basically set. Many candidates waste valuable time once applications are released wavering on school selection and starting applications for programs that they will eventually not apply to. Get ahead of this by starting your school research in advance of application season, so once applications are released you can hit the ground running.

3. Complete School Research

Now that your school list is set, it is time to dive deeper into your school research and really begin to identify the elements at each individual MBA program that are uniquely attractive to you.

4. Outline School Specific Essays

With the details set of your specific interest in your target program it’s time to align your mini-stories with school specific essays. Remember each individual essay should be created from scratch but use the details developed via your mini-stories as a launching point.

5. Write and Review Essays

All the hard work has been done so now it’s time to actually write the essay. If the other steps are completed properly then the actually process should be very easy. A key aspect of the writing process is the review process. Utilize a team of trusted eyes to help you review your hard work.

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

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

During the spring semester of my sophomore year at Georgetown University, when the cherry blossoms were blooming in Washington D.C. and students were ditching the library for the front lawn, I was so nervous about choosing my major that I kept putting off the decision – even though the deadline was just over the horizon. I, like many students, found the decision nerve-wracking because I didn’t want to pick the “wrong” major. What if it took me until my senior year to realize that I wasn’t interested in my coursework – that my true passion lay elsewhere? What if the major I chose didn’t open doors for me in the future?

No matter how many lists I made of pro’s and con’s, I couldn’t arrive at a decision. It was only when I struck up a conversation with a senior who’d majored in the same field that I was leaning towards that I began to feel like I was actually grounding my thinking in practical and personal considerations, rather than chasing nebulous ideas. Here are five key reasons why you should befriend an older student to help mentor you through your college career:

1. Speak Up and Reach Out. It is important that you to talk about the decisions they’ve made in college. I don’t mean just asking someone in passing which professors to avoid, or which professors give easy A’s. I mean regularly getting coffee with an older student whom you respect – whether that person is your RA, or a member of a club you’ve joined, or even a TA in one of your classes – and asking them about the finer points of their college experience. Of course, you’ll be surrounded by many intelligent and helpful adults while in college, including your professors and your dean, and you should make every effort to speak with them about your decisions. At the same time, speaking with older students has one major advantage that speaking with university officials and professors doesn’t: the older students were recently in your shoes.

2. Get the Inside Scoop. When you speak to a junior or senior at your university, you’re speaking to someone who faced nearly the same decisions you’re now facing. So this older student will be able to give you extremely relevant and descriptive anecdotes and advice. For example, even after I had decided on a major in International Relations, I was unsure about what languages I should study while in college. I was torn between continuing to perfect my Spanish, which I’d been learning since high school, or beginning a new language. I remained undecided until I spoke with a senior who’d studied abroad in Brazil; her advice was to learn Portuguese, because the language was similar to Spanish, but would still present a new challenge for me. Also, she told me, the Portuguese classes at Georgetown were excellent, so my time would be well spent.

3. Build a Diverse Network. It still amazes me to this day that if I had never asked that senior for advice, the idea of learning Portuguese as a third language may never have even occurred to me. This is the second reason I recommend speaking with the older students about their college experience. While you are part of a college community, you have the opportunity to meet so many different people, perhaps more so than many other times in your life. Be sure to take full advantage of this situation by considering the experiences of the diverse people around you, because in doing so, you’ll encounter ideas you may never have come to on your own.

4. Make Lasting Connections. Once you begin seeking advice from older students, you’ll find that you have more questions than even you could have predicted. Which makes a lot of sense! In college, you’ll have to make decisions about landing internships, choosing clubs and extracurriculars, and networking, to name just a few. One of the wonderful things about being a part of a college community is that you can ask all of those questions; as I discovered, older students are more than happy to give advice. In fact, older students whom I reached out to helped me prepare for job interviews, find affordable housing after college, and are still my friends today. Sometimes, you can learn more from your fellow students than you can from your textbooks.

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

A week after the Fourth of July, a lesser-known but certainly-important holiday occurs each year. Tomorrow, friends, is 7-11, a day to enjoy free Slurpees at 7-11 stores, to roll some dice at the craps table, and to honor your favorite prime numbers. So to celebrate 7-11, let’s talk about these two important prime numbers.

Checking Whether A Number Is Prime

Consider a number like 133. Is that number prime? The first three prime numbers (2, 3, and 5) are easy to check to see whether they are factors (if any are, then the number is clearly not prime):

2 – this number is not even, so it’s not divisible by 2.

3 – the sum of the digits (an important rule for divisibility by three!) is 7, which is not a multiple of 3 so this number is not divisible by 3.

5 – the number doesn’t end in 5 or 0, so it’s not divisible by 5

But now things get a bit trickier. There are, in fact, (separate) divisibility “tricks” for 7 and 11. But they’re relatively inefficient compared with a universal strategy. Find a nearby multiple of the target number, then add or subtract multiples of that target number. If we want to test 133 to see whether it’s divisible by 7, we can quickly go to 140 (you know this is a multiple of 7) and then subtract by 7. That’s 133, so you know that 133 is a multiple of 7. (Doing the same for 11, you know that 121 is a multiple of 11 – it’s 11-squared – so add 11 more and you’re at 132, so 133 is not a multiple of 11)

This is even more helpful when, for example, a question asks something like “how many prime numbers exist between 202 and 218?”. By finding nearby multiples of 7 and 11:

210 is a multiple of 7, so 203 and 217 are also multiples of 7

220 is a multiple of 11, so 209 is a multiple of 11

You can very quickly eliminate numbers in that range that are not prime. And since none of the even numbers are prime and neither are 205 and 215 (the ends-in-5 rule), you’re left only having to check 207 (which has digits that sum to a multiple of 3, so that’s not prime), 211 (more on that in a second), and 213 (which has digits that sum to 6, so it’s out).

So that leaves the process of testing 211 to see if it has any other prime factors than 2, 3, 5, 7, and 11. Which may seem like a pretty tall order. But here’s an important concept to keep in mind: you only have to test prime factors up to the square root of the number in question. So for 211, that means that because you should know that 15 is the square root of 225, you only have to test primes up to 15.

Why is that? Remember that factors come in pairs. For 217, for example, you know it’s divisible by 7, but 7 has to have a pair to multiply it by to get to 217. That number is 31 (31 * 7 = 217). So whatever factor you find for a number, it has to multiply with another number to get there.

Well, consider again the number 211. Since 15 * 15 is already bigger than 211, you should see that for any number bigger than 15 to be a factor of 211, it has to pair with a number smaller than 15. And as you consider the primes up to 15, you’re already checking all those smaller possibilities. That allows you to quickly test 211 for divisibility by 13 and then you’re done. And since 211 is not divisible by 13 (you could do the long division or you could test 260 – a relatively clear multiple of 13 – and subtract 13s until you get to or past 211: 247, 234, 221, and 208, so 211 is not a multiple of 13. Therefore 211 is prime.

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