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Bloomberg Businessweek has just announced the 2014 edition of its influential biennial MBA rankings, and boy are there changes afoot! Business school rankings are normally only interesting when there are big changes, and the folks at Businessweek did not disappoint this year.

Here are Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2014 rankings of the top 25 business schools in the U.S., followed by our analysis of what’s changed:

1. Duke (Fuqua)

2. Pennsylvania (Wharton)

3. Chicago (Booth)

4. Stanford

5. Columbia

6. Yale

7. Northwestern (Kellogg)

8. Harvard

9. Michigan (Ross)

10. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)

11. UCLA (Anderson)

12. North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

13. Cornell (Johnson)

14. MIT (Sloan)

15. Dartmouth (Tuck)

16. Indiana (Kelley)

17. Maryland (Smith)

18. Emory (Goizueta)

19. UC Berkeley (Haas)

20. Virginia (Darden)

21. USC (Marshall)

22. NYU (Stern)

23. Texas at Austin (McCombs)

24. Georgetown (McDonough)

25. Rice (Jones)

Winners in This Year’s Rankings

There’s no doubt that they’re partying down in Durham today, as Duke’s Fuqua School of Business has taken over the #1 spot in Businessweek’s rankings for the first time, knocking previous champ Chicago Booth down to #3. Columbia also had a huge day, climbing eight spots from #13 to the fifth slot.

It’s hard to top Duke’s big day, but if anyone is even more excited than Team Fuqua, it may be the folks at Yale SOM, which climbed a whopping 15 spots, jumping from #21 all the way to #6. No doubt the student body in New Haven is feeling energized by the school’s new building and the leadership of new dean Ted Snyder.

UCLA Anderson also had a terrific day, climbing from #18 all the way to #11. UNC’s Kenan-Flagler was just a smidge less successful, jumping from #17 to #12 in the new rankings.

Losers in This Year’s Rankings

We already mentioned Booth, which lost the top spot this year, although there’s no real shame in being ranked the third best business school in America. Among business schools in the top ten, Harvard is smarting from a six-spot drop from #2 down to #8. And Kellogg fell out of the top five, drooping two spots to #7.

Looking a bit further down the list, Cornell’s Johnson School fell out of the top ten, dropping from 7th place down to 13th place. MIT Sloan had a similarly bad day, falling from ninth place to the 14th spot.

How Businessweek Ranks the Business Schools

Bloomberg Businessweek uses three data sources for its rankings: It relies on a survey of student satisfaction (which is given a 45% weighting), a survey of employers who hire those graduates (45%), and a measure of the faculty’s clout, judged by how much the faculty publishes in academic journals (10 percent). You can read about Businessweek’s ranking methodology in more detail here.

So, remember that these rankings are largely a measure of how happy MBA students are with their schools, and how happy employers are with the grads that the schools turn out. This is no better or worse of a methodology than any other, but keep that in the back of your mind as you consider whether any school really just got better or worse than 10 other top-ranked U.S. business schools.

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

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Last week, we discussed how to break down the Writing Section of the SAT. Today, we’re focusing on Math.

Anyone can get an 800 on SAT Math. It doesn’t matter if you struggle just to get through class in high school or you’ve tested out of advanced Calculus. The content of the SAT Math section is designed in a completely different manner than that of conventional math class. This is good news for anyone who wants a high score on the SAT. This means regardless of how you might fare in class, you can succeed on the math section . All it takes is knowledge of Algebra I and II, Geometry, and basic arithmetic. If you have all that down (and work hard to understand patterns of SAT questions) you will be on the road to success! Here are some helpful tips that will assist you dominate the SAT math sections.

ORDER AND DIFFICULTY. There are three sections on the test. There is one twenty five minute, twenty question section (all multiple choice). There will be another twenty five minute, eighteen question section (eight multiple choice and ten grid in questions). Finally, you will have a twenty minute, sixteen question section near the end of the test composed solely of multiple choice questions.

The SAT math questions follow the “order of difficulty rule.” More specifically, question one is the easiest and question twenty is the hardest. The same rule follows on the sixteen question, twenty minute section. The order of difficulty resets on the grid in section, with questions increasing in difficulty from one to eight and then restarting from nine to eighteen. The one caveat to this rule is when you have a graph of table and two questions referring to the example. In this case the first question is fairly easy and the second question is significantly more difficult. If you find yourself having trouble with these remember that the question is generally more challenging than the normal question for that stage of the test. These types of questions appear almost always near the middle of a section.

TYPES OF QUESTIONS. It’s important to be aware of where each question lies on the spectrum of the test. If a question is in the early stages and you are having trouble with it, it is fair to say you are probably doing something wrong. These questions are usually pretty easy and only take a step or two to solve. On the other hand, if there is a question near the end of the test and you solve it pretty quickly, you might have fallen into a trap laid by the SAT. These questions are multi-step problems that require a level of critical analysis before using math to find the answer.

In addition to the order of difficulty it is helpful to be cognizant of the type of questions that come up on the test. A lot of times, a more difficult question will deal with geometric figures. Occasionally, this will be asking for the volume of a cylinder or something of that nature. However, the bulk of these types of questions deal with circles. The circles can have circumscribed squares or triangles, they can be on graphs, or they can be asking for the arc, radius, or area of segments. Whatever the case may be, it will serve you very well to familiarize yourself with the difficult circle questions. Many students are able to solve one or two difficult questions each test just from practicing the multiple variations of these types of problems.

CONCEPTUAL TRICKS. In addition to geometric figures, the SAT will also try to get you with abstract concepts through the use of multiple variables. The best thing to do in this case is to plug in numbers for the variables. Whenever you do this it takes abstract ideas and turns them into concrete concepts. Doing this helps you avoid traps the SAT sets knowing students will try to solve these problems using letters instead of numbers.

If you understand the structure of the test, do enough practice tests and sections, and remember to study geometric figures and plug in numbers, there is no doubt you will succeed on the Math sections of the SAT.

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.

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If you’ve ever built a puzzle, you probably know that you can’t expect to start at a certain point and build the entire puzzle without moving around. You may find two or three pieces that fit together nicely, but then you find three pieces that fit together nicely somewhere else, and then work to connect these disparate sections.

A common strategy in puzzles is to build the outsides or the corners first, as these pieces are more easily identifiable than a typical piece, and then try and connect them wherever possible. Indeed, you are unlikely to have ever solved a puzzle without needing to jump around (except for puzzles with 4 pieces or so).

Similarly, you are often faced with GMAT questions that seem like intricate puzzles, and this same strategy of jumping around can be applied. If you start at the beginning of a question and make some strides, you may find your progress has been jammed somewhere along the way and you must devise a new strategy to overcome this roadblock. Jumping around to another part of the problem is a good strategy to get your creative juices flowing.

Let’s say a math question is asking you about the sum of a certain series. A simplistic approach (possibly one used by a Turing machine) would sequentially count each item and keep a running tally. However, a more strategic approach might involve jumping to the end of the series, investigating how the series is constructed, and finding the average. This average can then be multiplied by the number of terms to correctly find the sum of a series in a couple of steps, whereas the brute force approach would take much longer. Since the GMAT is an exam of how you think, the questions asked will often reward your use of logical thinking and your understanding of the underlying math concepts.

Let’s look at a sequence and see how thinking out of order can actually get our thinking straight:

In the sequence a1, a2, a3, an, an is determined for all values n > 2 by taking the average of all terms a1 through an-1. If a1 = 1 and a3 = 5, then what is the value of a20?

(A) 1

(B) 4.5

(C) 5

(D) 6

(E) 9

This question is designed to make you waste time trying to decipher it. A certain pattern is established for this sequence, and then the twentieth term is being asked of us. If the sequence has a pattern for all numbers greater than two, and it gave you the first two numbers, then you could deduce the subsequent terms to infinity (and beyond!). However, only the first and third terms are given, so there is at least an extra element of determining the value of the second term. After that, we may need to calculate 16 intermittent items before getting to the 20th value, so it seems like it might be a time consuming affair. As is often the case on the GMAT, once we get going this may be easier than it initially appears.

If a1 is 1 and a3 is 5, we actually have enough information to solve a2. The third term of the sequence is defined as the average of the first two terms, thus a3 = (a1 + a2) / 2. This one equation has three variables, but two of them are given in the premise of the question, leading to 5 = (1 + a2) /2. Multiplying both sides by 2, we get 10 = 1 + a2, and thus a2 has to be 9. The first three terms of this sequence are therefore {1, 9, 5}. Now that we have the first three terms and the general case, we should be able to solve a4, a5 and beyond until the requisite a20.

The fourth term, a4 is defined as the average of the first three terms. Since the first three terms are {1, 9, 5}, the fourth term will be a4 = (1 + 9 + 5) / 3. This gives us 15/3, which simplifies to 5. A4 is thus equal to 5. Let’s now solve for a5. The same equation must hold for all an, so a5 = (1 + 9 + 5 + 5) /4, which is 20/4, or again, 5. The third, fourth and fifth terms of this sequence are all 5. Perhaps we can decode a pattern without having to calculate the next fourteen numbers (hint: yes you can!).

A3 is 5 because that is the average of 1 and 9. Once we found a3, we set off to find subsequent elements, but all of these elements will follow the same pattern. We take the elements 1 and 9, and then find the average of these two numbers, and then average out all three terms. Since a3 was already the average of a1 and a2, adding it to the equation and finding the average will change nothing. A4 will similarly be 5, and adding it into the equation and taking the average will again change nothing. Indeed all of the terms from A3 to A∞ will be equal to exactly 5, and they will have no effect on the average of the sequence.

You may have noticed this pattern earlier than element a5, but it can nonetheless be beneficial to find a few concrete terms in order to cement your hypothesis. You can stop whenever you feel comfortable that you’ve cracked the code (there are no style points for calculating all twenty elements). Indeed, it doesn’t matter how many terms you actually calculate before you discover the pattern. The important part is that you look through the answer choices and understand that term a20, like any other term bigger than a3, must necessarily be 5, answer choice C.

While understanding the exact relationship between each term on test day is not necessary, it’s important to try and see a few pattern questions during your test prep and understand the concepts being applied. You may not be able to recognize all the common GMAT traps, but if you recognize a few you can save yourself valuable time on questions. If you find yourself faced with a confusing or convoluted question, remember that you don’t have to tackle the problem in a linear fashion. If you’re stuck, try to establish what the key items are, or determine the end and go backwards. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to skip around (figuratively, literal skipping is frowned upon at the test center).

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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Well, it’s that time of year again…rankings season. Actually, the mother-ship of b-school rankings, the Bloomberg BusinessWeek rankings, only comes out every two years, but since the last one was in 2012, we find ourselves once again pouring over the latest chips and where they fell this time around. Of course the usual suspects are all packed into the top 10-15, but there were a few upsets this year, some more surprising than others. But first, let’s discuss how BusinessWeek ranks these schools in the first place.

The BusinessWeek rankings are on the surface rather simple; in fact, there are really only three metrics which are considered. The first is a survey of existing students and their overall satisfaction with the curriculum, the faculty and the culture of their school. In order to be considered in the rankings at all, a school must return at least 30% of its questionnaires, which are given as one per student. If less than 30% of the student body returns the questionnaire, that school is not ranked at all. This year, BBBW ranked 85 schools—the longest list in their history of rankings. This student survey makes up 45% of the score for the ranking.

Secondly, BBBW interviews recruiters, to survey their opinions about the quality of the students they hire from individual schools. The recruiter survey is tabulated and quantified, and the results indicate which schools are making recruiters the most happy with the students they end up hiring. This recruiter survey makes up another 45% of the ranking, leaving just 10% of the score to come from what’s known as “intellectual capital scores,” which is a fancy way of saying what professors think of the faculty and their research production. Surveys are sent to faculty and Dean’s of top programs, and their opinions of the relative quality of research articles and publications coming out of each school are tabulated.

For the first time ever, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business beat out the likes of stalwarts Harvard, Stanford and Wharton, among the other 81 schools to be crowned the number one business school in America. This is the first time Duke has ever been ranked at #1, and previously had been as high as #5 back in 2000. Surprisingly, HBS took a nosedive this year, dropping to #8 from #2. Last year’s number one school, the Booth School at University of Chicago, fell to #3, nudging up the Wharton School back to #2 (Wharton was #3 last year). Some schools slipped out of the top 10 for the first time in awhile, including MIT’s Sloan School of Management and University of Virginia (which was down a whopping 10 spots and now sits just barely in the top 20). The Johnson School at Cornell dropped back again to number 13, after a brief, one year period in the top 10.

Despite the shuffling, the same schools always seem to remain in the rarified air of the top 15 or 20, so it’s unlikely the rankings will cause any shockwaves. Certainly Duke will get a few more applications, but since they have been solidly in the top 10 for almost two decades, rising to the coveted #1 spot will not make much real long-term impact on their admissions process most likely. Other schools, however, will likely get a real bump. Schools such as University of Maryland or Emory, who have never been in the top 20 before, are suddenly enjoying some well-deserved limelight.

In the final analysis, you should still stay the course and not let rankings drive your application decisions. The best schools to apply to are always the ones where you feel you will fit the best academically, culturally and professionally.

Bryant Michaels 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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This week’s video post brings you a tip for taking a closer look at the data in Data Sufficiency. Is what you know about Data Sufficiency statements really sufficient? There are certain points of information that are necessary to know for Data Sufficiency, but knowing those doesn’t mean you have sufficient information to correctly solve the problem.

Watch this video to learn how you can find hidden hints within statements and how that can help you avoid any GMAT traps. You don’t want to leave any points on the table.

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

First, let us give you the link to the last post of this series: Post IV. It contains links to previous parts too.

Today, we bring another tip for you to help get that dream score of 51 – if you must write down the data given, write down all of it! Let us explain.

If you think that you will need to jot down the data given in the question and then solve it on your scratch pad (instead of in your mind), you must jot down every single detail. It is easy to overlook small things which are difficult to express algebraically such as ‘x is an integer’. These details are often critical and could make all the difference between an ‘unsolvable’ question and a ‘solvable within 2 minutes’ one. Once you start solving the question on your scratch pad, you will not refer back to the original question again and again and hence might forget these details. Have them along with the rest of the data. Read every word of the question carefully, and ensure that it is consolidated on your scratch pad. For example, look at this question:

A set of five positive integers has an arithmetic mean of 150. A particular number among the five exceeds another by 100. The rest of the three numbers lie between these two numbers and are equal. How many different values can the largest number among the five take?

It is a difficult question because it incorporates statistics as well as max-min – both tricky topics. On top of it, people often overlook the ‘are equal’ part of the question here. The reason for that is that they are actively looking for implications of the sentences and the moment they read “The rest three numbers lie between these two numbers”, they go back to the previous sentence which tells us “A particular number among the five exceeds another by 100”. They then make a note of the fact that 100 is the range of the five positive integers. In all this excitement, they miss the three critical words “and are equal”. Ensure that when you go to the sentence above, you pick the next sentence from the point where you left it. Another thing to note here is that all numbers are positive integers. This information will be critical to us.

Let’s demonstrate how you will solve this question after incorporating all the information given.

Question: A set of five positive integers has an arithmetic mean of 150. A particular number among the five exceeds another by 100. The rest of the three numbers lie between these two numbers and are equal. How many different values can the largest number among the five take?

(A) 18

(B) 19

(C) 21

(D) 42

(E) 59

Solution:

Let’s assume that the 5 natural numbers in increasing order are: a, b, b, b, a+100

We are given that a < b < a+100.

Also, we are given that a and b are positive integers. This information is critical – we will see later why.

The average of the 5 numbers is (a+b+b+b+a+100)/5 = 150

(a+b+b+b+a+100) = 5*150

2a+3b = 650

We need to find the number of distinct values that a can take because a+100 will also take the same number of distinct values.

Now there are two methods to proceed. Let’s discuss both of them.

Method 1: Pure Algebra – Write b in terms of a and plug it in the inequality

b = (650 – 2a)/3

a < (650 – 2a)/3 < a+100

3a < 650 – 2a < 3a + 300

Now split it into two inequalities: 3a < 650 – 2a and 650 – 2a < 3a + 300

Inequality 1: 3a < 650 – 2a

5a < 650

a < 130

Inequality 2: 650 – 2a < 3a + 300

5a > 350

a > 70

So we get that 70 < a < 130. Since a is an integer, can we say that a can take all values from 71 to 129? No. What we are forgetting is that b is also an integer. We know that

b = (650 – 2a)/3

For which values will be get b as an integer? Note that 650 is not divisible by 3. You need to add 1 to it or subtract 2 out of it to make it divisible by 3. So a should be of the form 3x+1.

b = (650 – 2*(3x+1))/3 = (648 – 6x)/3 = 216 – 2x

Here, for any positive integer x, b will be an integer.

From 71 to 129, we have the following numbers which are of the form 3x+1:

73, 76, 79, 82, 85, … 127

This is an Arithmetic Progression. How many terms are there here?

Last term = First term + (n – 1)*Common Difference

127 = 73 + (n – 1)*3

n = 19

a will take 19 distinct values so the last term i.e. (a+100) will also take 19 distinct values.

Method 2: Using Transition Points

Note that a < b < a+100

Since a < b, let’s find the point where a = b, i.e. the transition point

2a + 3a = 650

a = 130 = b

But b must be greater than a. If we increase b by 1, we need to decrease a by 3 to keep the average same. But decreasing a by 3 decreases the largest number i.e. a+100 by 3 too; so we need to increase b by another 1.

We get a = 127 and b = 132. This give us the numbers as 127, 132, 132, 132, 227. Here the average is 150

Since b < a+100, let’s find the point where b = a+100

2a + 3(a+100) = 650

a = 70, b = 170

But b must be less than a+100. If we decrease b by 1, we need to increase a by 3 to keep the average same. But increasing a by 3 increases the largest number, i.e. a+100 by 3 too, so we need to decrease b by another 1.

We get a = 73 and b = 168. This gives us the numbers as 73, 168, 168, 168, 173. Here the average is 150

Values of a will be: 73, 76, 79, ….127 (Difference of 3 to make b an integer)

This is an Arithmetic Progression.

Last term = First term + (n – 1)*Common difference

127 = 73 + (n – 1)*3

n = 19

a will take 19 distinct values so the last term i.e. (a+100) will also take 19 distinct values.

Answer (B)

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

Business school is one of the most lucrative of all graduate degrees in its potential and proven history for embellishing salary. It’s not just in dollars and cents, either, but manifests itself in sheer employment statistics as well. During the great recession which started in 2008, for example, the general unemployment rate was almost triple what it was for those holding an MBA degree. It was also impossible to ignore the continuance of hiring freshly minted MBA graduates throughout this devastating period of economic turmoil. While the percentage of graduating MBAs with jobs did fall slightly, overall there was a negligible number of MBAs who could not find the job they wanted after graduation. Of course if you found yourself among these “negligible numbers,” I am sure it felt like you may have made the wrong $100,000 decision.

Therein lies the rub. While certainly providing a good return on investment in almost every case, business school is expensive, and paying for it can be one of the most challenging fiscal endeavors you ever undertake. The good news is the GMAC reports that one-third of MBA degree holders recouped the cost of their education in salary and bonus within a single year and all of them did so within four years, even with the cost of business school having doubled over the past ten years. The bad news is, coming up with the money up front can be challenging, especially if you are an international applicant, in which case the schools often want demonstration of your ability to pay before they will let you matriculate.

If you have a strong profile, you should definitely apply in the first round, since this is where most of the scholarship and fellowship monies are allocated. Missing a first round deadline can often mean passing up on these potential cost savings. Some schools will offer to lower tuition, while others can offer a full ride through b-school depending on your merits and the respective size of their endowment. If you are not a fellowship candidate and have a profile that will make you feel fortunate for even getting in, you may be relieved to “have” to shell out all that money! But how do you pay for it? Certainly b-schools expect to see that you have successfully saved money by the time you return to school. This is one advantage of business school over medical or law school, which you usually embark upon immediately after you graduate college (and we all know how broke you are after college). Still, if you blew all that money from your job on a new car and nice digs, you will probably wind up applying for loans. The US government is very generous in extending credit to students, but know that student loan debt never goes away, and is actually one of the only debts which even survives bankruptcy. Taking out a $100,000 loan to pay for school is not a small decision and that $30,000 signing bonus you may receive when you take a job at the end won’t put much of a dent in paying it off, especially if you end up spending some on other things.

The most important thing to do is to have a plan. Typically students combine all three methods, including spending money you have saved, borrowing some, and leveraging any scholarships or fellowships for which you are eligible. When you combine all three, paying for business school seems less daunting.

Bryant Michaels 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.

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

Over the last two weeks, we reviewed how to break down the SAT. First, we examined the Writing Section and then we investigated Math. Today, we finish this series with Critical Reading.

For a lot of students, Critical Reading is the most daunting aspect of the SAT. Whether it is because it seems vague and esoteric, critical reading can psyche out even the most advanced students. This is unfortunate because, in reality, critical reading is objective and quite similar to the math and writing sections. Overall, it is a fairly easy topic to prepare for.

Students make the mistake of comparing critical reading on the SAT to English class. In English class, students analyze the text and make assumptions about what author is really saying. In English class, there are a variety of possible interpretations that could possibly be right. This couldn’t be further from the truth on the SAT. Once students are able to get over this mental block, the critical reasoning section becomes a lot easier. Here are some helpful tips that any student can use to boost their score by a substantial margin.

There is only one right answer. While this is inherent in any multiple choice test, students often overlook this. This is what separates the SAT from high school English. There are no assumptions on the SAT. There is a clear, evidence based reason for why one answer is right on the test and the other four are wrong. Inference is key, as each correct answer has to have substantial evidence to prove that it is the right solution to the particular question. There are a variety of strategies you can employ to elevate your score but the most effective one is a pretty simple. Don’t assume. Every correct answer on the SAT has a reason for being right. Instead of trying to justify why answers could be right, a much better strategy is to attack the answer choices and prove to yourself why some answer choices are wrong.

Awareness of questions. The critical reading portion of the SAT is comprised of three sections. Two twenty five minute sections and one twenty minute section. There are two types of questions in critical reading. Sentence competition questions which deal with vocabulary, followed by passage based reading which deal with reading comprehension. There are nineteen total questions that deal with sentence completion, in addition to a few passage based reading questions that deal primarily with vocab. Each sentence completion question tests you on either five or ten vocabulary words. All in all, this means that the SAT is testing you on anywhere between ninety five and one hundred ninety vocabulary words. These are words that have, for the large majority, been used on past tests.

Memorize Vocabulary. Vocabulary is the easiest place to go up on the test. You can prepare for this part of critical reading by memorizing the vocabulary words most likely to appear on the test. This is a simple process and the only real part of the SAT that is based purely on memorization. However, just because it is simple does not mean it is easy. To really excel on the SAT vocab, it requires fifteen to thirty minutes a day of memorizing new words and reviewing old ones. If you really nail down these words, you can see a tremendous boost in your score just by answering four or five more vocabulary questions correctly.

If you study vocabulary and avoid making assumptions, there is no reason why your critical reading score will not increase by leaps and bounds. Happy studying and best of luck as you prepare for the December 6th SAT test!

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.

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It’s almost December, and in just a few weeks we will begin hearing from applicants with only a week or two ahead of their deadlines looking for last-minute consulting services.

Often, they’re too late to make significant improvements. If you haven’t already started on your Round 2 applications, here are 6 reasons why it’s crucial to stop shaking it off to Taylor Swift’s new album and begin working on your applications today:

1. You can recycle surprisingly little among different schools’ essay questions.

Every year, we see clients who expect that they can write essays for one application and simply strip out the name of one school and insert the name of another. This is especially tempting with the current trend in open ended questions. Rachel, a member of our Ultimate Admissions Committee and Head Consultant from Wharton, says “it’s more important than ever to consider the culture and environment of the school.” Admissions officers see thousands of essays every year, and they can spot a repurposed essay from a mile away. Applying to multiple schools takes time!

2. Significant school research is imperative to success.

Deciding on what business schools to apply to can be as emotionally charged as deciding if you’re Team Peeta or Team Gale, Team Swift or Team Spotify. Except now you’re deciding between Team Harvard or Team Stanford and this will be a life changing decision with a significant financial component. The schools are looking for candidates who’ve approached business school with a mature and thorough decision making process. In order to write impactful essays that also demonstrate fit, you will need to do more than check rankings and click through their website. Effective research often includes conversations with current students and recent alums, visiting campus and attending info sessions, or at least diving into comprehensive resources like the Veritas Prep Essential Guides. Lack of research leads to generic essays, which are not compelling to admissions officers.

Your recommender is Team YOU and their #1 job is to be your biggest cheerleader. Most recommenders, just like you, are busy people with their own professional and personal deadlines. Many recommenders may even be tempted to have you write the recommendation. However, recommendations written by you are never as strong as those written by the supervisor themselves. To have an effective recommendation, you will need to spend time preparing a “cheat sheet” of accomplishments, strengths, weaknesses (all with examples) that will enable your recommender to write the recommendation themselves. Nearly every school will ask your recommender to rate you on a number of attributes and so you want them to be well informed. Every recommendation is different, so you must provide your recommenders plenty of time and support – they are helping you out!

4. Your essays require review from multiple people.

Applying to business school is not the time to lock yourself in a dark room, light some incense, and go at your essays alone. Reaching out to a few friends who really understand the MBA admissions process or your Veritas Prep admissions consultants (or both!), and gaining multiple perspectives on your essays is incredibly valuable. An informed outside reviewer can help you see that you’re not answering the question or they may have suggestions on how to tell your story more effectively. But this process of seeking input and incorporating feedback takes time. Be sure to reserve enough time to get at least a couple of different perspectives on each essay.

“The journey you take in applying to business school can almost feel like you’re baring your soul to a stranger, but taking the time to reflect on what makes you tick and being honest with your strengths and soft spots will always make a stronger and more compelling application.” – Kenyata, Head Consultant Chicago (Booth)

Perhaps the biggest mistake we see our clients make in their initial drafts of essays is that they are too generic. Admissions officers have your resume and see what you have done. They are more interested in learning how you have made important decisions in your life, why you chose a certain path and what you have learned from your choices. Dedicating time to the self discovery process is crucial to writing compelling and successful essays.

6. Short essays are more challenging than you think.

Dozie, Head Consultant from Kellogg, tells his clients, “the shorter the essay the more each individual word will be scrutinized by the admissions committee, so make every word count!” We’ve seen MBA admissions essays get much shorter over the years, but this isn’t necessarily something to celebrate because you think these essays will require less time. Actually, the opposite is true. It becomes even more challenging to share interesting stories and differentiate yourself from other applicants in just 500-800 words. Short essays require a lot of outlining and dedication to making every word significant. Applicants first drafts end up being double the word count so be sure to leave enough time to decide what to cut.

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In life, you are often given binary choices. This is true even if the word binary isn’t something you recognize right away. Binary comes from the Latin “bini”, which means two together, and is used to regroup decisions in which you have exactly two choices. On forms, you might see categories such as “smoker” or “non-smoker”, and you are prompted to answer exactly one of the options. At a restaurant, you might get asked “Soup or salad?” (super salad??), and you are expected to make a decision as to which appetizer you want. Very frequently, these two choices cover the entirety of your options. There is no third option to select.

Now, at a restaurant, you may be particularly hungry and decide to order both the soup and the salad (and the frog legs while we’re at it). Similarly, on forms, someone who selects both options is being confusing. Perhaps you’ve smoked once and didn’t like it. Perhaps you smoke only on long weekends when the Philadelphia Eagles have a winning record. Sometimes people decide they don’t want to pick between the two choices given. However, if the question were changed to “have you ever smoked a cigarette?” and then given yes or no options, the decision becomes much easier. You have to be in one camp or the other, there is no sitting on the fence (like Humpty Dumpty).

For questions that set up this kind of duality, the entire spectrum of possibilities is essentially covered in these two options. There is no third option; there is no “It’s Complicated” selection. There isn’t even a section for you to explain yourself in the comments below. On these questions, you have to either be on one side or the other, you cannot be in both. Equally, you cannot be in the “neither” camp either. Necessarily, to this point in your life, you have either smoked a cigarette or you have not. Since one of them must be true, this certainty offers some insight on inference questions in critical reasoning.

As you probably recall, inference questions require that an answer choice must be true at all times. This isn’t always easy to see as many answer choices seem likely, but simply are not guaranteed. Sometimes, on inference questions, you get two answer choices that are compliments of one another. You get two choices that say something to the effect of “Ron is always awesome” and “Ron is not always awesome”. Even I would go for the latter here, but clearly one of these must be correct. They cannot both be correct, but they also cannot both be false. Having two answer choices like this guarantees that one of them must be the correct answer, and makes your task considerably easier.

Let’s look at an example:

A few people who are bad writers simply cannot improve their writing, whether or not they receive instruction. Still, most bad writers can at least be taught to improve their writing enough so that they are no longer bad writers. However, no one can become a great writer simply by being taught how to be a better writer, since great writers must have not only skill but also talent.

Which one of the following can be properly inferred from the passage above?

(A) All bad writers can become better writers

(B) All great writers had to be taught to become better writers.

(C) Some bad writers can never become great writers.

(D) Some bad writers can become great writers.

(E) Some great writers can be taught to be even better writers.

Since this is an inference question, we must read through the answer choices because there are many possible answers that could be inferred from this passage. When reading through the passage, you probably note that answers C and D are somewhat complimentary. Either the bad writers can become great writers, or they can’t. However, some people might be miffed by the fact that “some writers” is vague and could mean different people in different contexts. However, while the term “some writers” is undoubtedly abstract, it can refer to any subset of writers one or greater (and up to the entire group). Any group of bad writers is thus conceivable in this passage, but the answer choice must be true at all times, so the groups comprised of “some writers” can mean anyone, and these two groups can be considered equivalent.

If you recognize that either answer choice C or answer choice D must be the answer, then you can easily skip over the other three choices. For completeness’ sake, let’s run through them quickly here. Answer choice A directly contradicts the first sentence of this passage: Some bad writers simply cannot improve their writing. Answer choice B contradicts the major point of this passage, which is that great writers have a combination of skill and talent, and you cannot teach talent. Answer choice E makes sense as an option, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be true. This is a classic example of something that’s likely true in the real world, but not necessarily guaranteed by this particular passage.

This leaves us with two options to consider. Can bad writers become great writers, or can they never become great writers? As mentioned above, great writers are born with some level of talent that cannot be mimicked by practice alone. The passage explicitly states “no one can one can become a great writer simply by being taught how to be a better writer”. Even though some bad writers can improve their writing with some help (perhaps even writing a Twilight Saga), some cannot improve their writing at all. If these bad writers cannot improve their writing, they necessarily will never become great writers. Answer choice C must be true based on the passage.

Looking at answer choice D in contrast, it states: “some bad writers can become great writers”. Perhaps some can, but this cannot be guaranteed in any way from the passage. It’s possible that all the writers are terrible even after year of practice. In fact, since we know that some will never improve (the opposite), this conclusion is certainly is not guaranteed. Answer choice C is supported by the passage, answer choice D seems conceivable in the real world, but it is certainly not assured.

On the GMAT, as in life, when confronted with two complimentary choices, you have to end up making a choice. In this instance, because you typically have five choices to consider, whittling the competition down to two choices already saves you time and gives you confidence. Recognizing which option must always be true is all that’s left to do, and that often comes down to playing Devil’s Advocate. When you’re tackling a decision such as this, consider what has to be true, and you’ll make the right choice.

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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The following interview comes from www.topgmatprepcourses.com. Top GMAT Prep Courses recently had the opportunity to conduct a Q&A session with Chris Kane, one of Veritas Prep’s most seasoned GMAT instructors, to inquire about the GMAT and get his take on 10 great questions that many MBA candidates would like to ask with regards to GMAT prep courses and useful tips on how to be successful at achieving their desired GMAT score.

What motivates you to be a GMAT instructor?

“I have been teaching the GMAT for 10 years because I absolutely love what the test is designed to assess and how it makes you learn and think. This is not a content regurgitation test, but rather it is one that assesses who is good at taking basic content and using that to solve very difficult problems and reasoning puzzles. I believe that the skills and thinking processes the GMAT assesses are invaluable not only in business but in all walks of life. I really enjoy unlocking this way of thinking for students and teaching them to love a test that they may have at first despised!”

If you could give three pieces of advice to future GMAT test takers, what would they be?

“1) Do not waste 3 months preparing on your own, receive a low score, and THEN sign up for a high quality GMAT prep course. Take our full GMAT course before you even open a book or read about the GMAT. It will save you so much time, energy, and frustration.

2) Bring your underlying skills up to par before you start our course or do any type of GMAT preparation. Sign up several weeks before the start date and thoroughly complete all of the necessary Skillbuilders form our curriculum. Everyone has some skills that need refreshing and you will be better equipped to get the important takeaways from the class and from the individual homework questions when you have done this first.

3) Learn how to get the proper takeaways from each question and, most importantly, become a critical thinker. To succeed on the GMAT you must be all of the following: a pattern thinker, critical thinker who is able to play devil’s advocate, conceptual thinker, and a precise reader. During your preparation, learn from your mistakes and realize that you must do a fairly large number of questions and tests before these abilities can be properly developed.

Is there a common misconception of the GMAT or of what is a realistic GMAT score?

“I think there are many important misconceptions about the test as a whole and the scoring system in particular. As I have intimated earlier, the biggest misconception about the GMAT is that it is a content test in which memorizing all the rules and the underlying content will allow you to do well. This is certainly not the case and it is why so many students get frustrated when they prepare on their own. The GMAT is so different from the tests that you were able to ace in college with memorization ‘all-nighters.’ Also, I think people underestimate how competitive and difficult the GMAT really is. Remember that you are competing against a highly selective group of college graduates from around the world who are very hungry to attend a top US business school. This test is no joke and requires an intensive preparation geared toward success in higher order thinking and problem solving.”

How do you personally ensure that students who are struggling end up with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful on the GMAT?

“As a company, we have done this by creating a curriculum that works for everyone and that addresses all of the underlying knowledge and skills required for success. By creating a separate set of ‘Skillbuilders’ for each lesson and accompanying videos done by our most veteran instructor, we allow each person to bring their underlying skills up to par before each lesson. In the lesson, we focus on the important problem solving skills and critical thinking skills that are harder for each person to develop on their own. Personally, I take a lot of pride in my ability to spot individual weaknesses quickly (both with content and with problem solving skills) and help my students address those effectively so they are better prepared for the test.”

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The groans I hear when I ask my students to memorize a new list of vocabulary words makes it seem as if I have asked them to do some impossible task akin to carving a replica of Michelangelo’s David with a dull set of dentistry tools. “It’s so tedious!” they say. To me, it does not seem more tedious than trying to slingshot exploding birds into precariously designed structures harboring evil green pigs, but what do I know? The question remains: what is the best way to learn vocabulary?

In order to address this question, let’s talk a little bit about how to form memory. If you are just trying to remember something for a second (like if a foxy lad or lass tells you their phone number and you need to remember it long enough to put in your phone) your brain can hold on to most information for a few seconds before it gets dumped. If you desire to remember something longer (like what this lad or lass is into so you have something to talk about later) this requires memory that stays longer, which requires focus, repetition, or activation of multiple brain areas. These are the techniques that can be utilized to form memories.

FOCUS. Trying to go over your vocabulary while listening to the new Taylor Swift album is not the best way to learn. People need concentrated focus to add information to the brain. The brain is so powerful, but is really only good at consciously focusing on one thing at a time. Let the focus be on learning, not on “The Evolution Of Dance”.

REPETITION. Repetition really is the easiest way to build long term memory. You can think about the brain as a dense forest. I need to get from point A to point B so I blaze a little trail and I have arrived! There is a connection in the brain and this connection is the memory. If we never use that path again it will become overgrown and covered up and we won’t be able to find the trail again; we will have to blaze a new memory. If, however, we use that trail sporadically then the trail grows more visible. The more we use it, the more it becomes a distinct pathway until it is etched into the wood permanently. The brain works similarly. Take a word and a definition that you don’t know. Look at it once then wait one minute. Now look at the word and try to think of the definition. Its tough right? Now take that same word and repeat the definition seven times. Now wait one minute. Maybe a bit easier? Did you get it? If not try it again. Repeat the word seven times. Now wait two minutes. I bet you can still recall the definition! This process can be used for a whole list of words. For some reason, seven seems to be a good number of repetitions to make things stick.

STORY & IMAGERY. Memory is aided by activating different parts of the brain. The language area is most used in memorizing novel words, but anything that creates a narrative (story) or picture (visual) will help to create memories that stick much easier. As an example, let’s take the word dogmatic, which means holding fast to beliefs. The sounds in this word can be associated with some image that both conveys sound and definition. When I think of this word I picture a bulldog hanging from the ceiling because it is biting into an attic door. Dogmatic: holding fast to a belief. As another example, let’s look at supercilious, which means haughty or arrogant. Again, the sounds can be used to create pictures. “Super” conjures images of a super hero, while “cilious” brings forth images of a one celled organism with lots of cilia (hairlike structures used for moving), so the image may be a paramecium with a superhero costume and a top hat and monocle (which I associate with haughty aristocracy). The more silly or memorable the image, the better! If it sticks in your mind, it will help you to remember the word.

All of these techniques can be used relatively quickly and effectively. My recommendation is to start with repetition and see what sticks, then use picture memory tricks for the words that you don’t remember. You can do this with groups of words (maybe ten at a time) and in just a few minutes you have created a fairly good start toward creating long term memory. The good news is every time you review these learned words you are strengthening the memory further. Over the course of a few weeks you can learn hundreds of words without having to spend hours staring at a sheet of definitions.

As a final note, memory does a funny thing when you sleep. Every day you experience so many things which create countless connections in the brain. This means that every night your brain takes ALL the new memories and weakens them a little. For most memories, this weakening reduces them to nothing, but the memories we create using repetition and narrative remain. More importantly, the brain can focus on the remaining memories more effectively because all the less useful stuff has been removed. This means, however, that it is REALLY important to review new words the next day. It will really to strengthen that memory and get you going towards a permanent memory. Put the words in your phone on a free flashcard app and review them when you are tired of playing “Candy Crush.” You’ll be very surprised at how quickly you retain these words.

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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A few weeks back, we wrote a postbusting some Sentence Correction myths. Let’s continue from where we left. We discussed how we can have pronouns referring to different antecedents in different clauses of the same sentence. Let’s take another example illustrating that principle. Also, we learn how to use ‘being’ correctly in GMAT.

Myth 3: Use of ‘being’ is always wrong on GMAT!

Often, the way we use ‘being’ in our day-to-day communication, is incorrect. For example,

Being a doctor, he is very well respected.

But there are correct ways of using ‘being’. Since most students believe that ‘being’ is wrong, don’t trust the GMAC to not use this nugget of information to misdirect the test takers. The correct answers of questions at higher ability are worded in such a way that they make the test takers uncomfortable!

So how is ‘being’ used correctly?

‘Being’ is used to express a temporary state.

The little boy started screaming when he saw his dog being impounded.

‘Being impounded’ is a temporary state and would be over – unlike being a doctor. So the use of being is correct here.

Let’s look at one of our own sentence correction questions now:

Question: The data being collected in the current geological survey are providing a strong warning for engineers as they consider the new dam project, but their greatest importance might lie in how they influence the upcoming decision by those same engineers on whether to retrofit 75 bridges in the survey zone.

A. The data being collected in the current geological survey are providing a strong warning for engineers as they consider the new dam project, but their greatest importance

B. The data being collected in the current geological survey provide a strong warning for engineers as they consider the new dam project, but its greatest importance

C. The data collected in the current geological survey is providing a strong warning for engineers as they consider the new dam project, but their greatest importance

D. The data collected in the current geological survey provides a strong warning for engineers in consideration of the new dam project, but its greatest importance

E. The data collected in the current geological survey provide a strong warning for engineers in consideration for the new dam project, but the greatest importance

Solution: Let’s find the decision points:

First decision point: being collected vs collected

‘The data being collected’ is a temporary state here. Data won’t always be collected, but are being collected for a short time right now, so “being” is used properly here. Nothing wrong with ‘The data collected in …’ either so we retain all answer options.

Second decision point: are/is

Technically, data is plural of datum. In academic writing it is almost always treated as plural. It is treated as singular in informal writing but GMAT favors treating it as plural.

Even if you do not know this, the use of “they influence the upcoming” – in the portion of the sentence that is not underlined – should tell you that ‘data’ is used in plural form here.

Hence the use of ‘are’ is appropriate. Hence, options (C) and (D) are eliminated.

Third decision point: Pronouns

There are many pronouns used here. Antecedent of each pronoun is present in the sentence. The usage clarifies which pronoun refers to data and which refers to engineers.

Original Sentence: The data being collected in the current geological survey are providing a strong warning for engineers as they consider the new dam project, but their greatest importance might lie in how they influence the upcoming decision by those same engineers on whether to retrofit 75 bridges in the survey zone.

they – only engineers can consider the new dam project so ‘they’ refers to engineers

their/its - greatest importance will be of data, which is plural, so ‘their’ would be the correct usage. Eliminate option (D)

There is no ambiguity in the use of pronouns. The nouns are present and the usage clarifies the antecedent.

Now we are left with options (A) and (E). In option (E), “in consideration for the new dam project” is bad diction. Also, it doesn’t tell us ‘whose greatest importance?’.

Answer is (A)

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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For a good number of years, Calculus was a prerequisite to joining any decent MBA program. There were several good reasons for this, including the fact that rate of change (computed using Calculus from the first derivative of an equation), is a very useful concept and commonly seen not only in finance coursework, but also in other classes where time is a factor (arguably almost any business concept has some component of time). But over the years, we have seen an increasing number of schools drop Calculus from the required list (cue the cheering crowd of poets!).

As a matter of fact, Duke and Cornell, two of the last bastions of this onerous prerequisite, both recently abandoned the requirement for new applicants (cue more cheers). Why? It’s hard to say exactly, and there are some who would argue it’s to the detriment of the MBA. Are they dumbing down the degree? Likely not, but the simple matter of fact is that calculus was actually never used extensively in any MBA curriculum beyond what a very cursory understanding of the basic concepts would provide. Those who lament its uneventful killing perhaps feel in doing so, schools have invited a shallower understanding of math in general from the student body. I mean, if you made it all the way through calculus with decent grades, it implies you not only understand Newton’s glorious invention itself, but also all of the prior mathematical disciplines which came before it. After all, you can’t just jump into calculus—you must take algebra, geometry and trigonometry first. This makes Calculus a bit of a calling card or club. Simply put: it tells folks you’re smart.

What schools are doing now is explaining the basic concepts needed for understanding the calculus behind certain formulas on the fly (example: Black Scholes Model), and then leaving it up to students if they want to go deeper on their own. Because very few careers will require you to use it, it’s not something they are making you demonstrate prior to b-school. This makes MBA programs a bit more accessible for the folks who are brilliant in other ways. Business schools pride themselves on a diverse, high achieving body of students, and if everyone is a math whiz, it’s likely they are leaving other perspectives out of the proverbial equation (see what I did there?) So the real question now becomes not whether you need calculus, but whether you want calculus. Before you celebrate too loudly the fact you will not have to spend this winter or next summer cranking through calculus at your local night school, know that if you actually take the course, you will likely enter your program more fully prepared and with more confidence—and who in the world would be opposed to that?

Bryant Michaels 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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As the holidays ramp up and the focus of many students shifts from tests to turkey, (or a delicious vegetarian alternative) it is easy to put studying for the SAT to bed for a long winter’s nap. It is almost certain that taking a little bit of time to not think about standardized tests is beneficial, but that does not mean that the next two months should be devoid of any work. With a work out plan, the two most important things are consistency and attitude. This is true of SAT studying as well. Students can use these three steps (which should take less than twenty minutes) four days a week to help continue the process of conquering the SAT, while still leaving you lots of time to hang out with your great aunt as she tells you how tall you’ve become.

Do Four Problems From Every Type Of SAT Section. In my mind this is three or four math problems, three sentence completions, two short reading passages or one medium reading passage, three improving sentences problems, and three identifying sentence error problems. Once or twice a week, just go through every type of problem to give you some practice changing your mindset to attack different types of questions. All of this together should take about fifteen minutes of your day and keep you in the mind set of answering SAT questions through the holidays. Set a clock for fifteen minutes and see if you can get through the whole section in the allotted time. Try to do the types of questions you find challenging but not impossible. If you make careless arithmetic errors, be sure to include some easy and medium problems so that you can practice avoiding such errors.

Every Couple Of Days, Pick A Section And Do Half Of It In A Timed Setting. On your other two days, pick a section and do half of it in a timed setting. This doesn’t have to be exact as the reading section can be difficult to split that way. But the usual recommendation is to do four sentence completions and a long passage (or the long comparison passage). This keeps you sharp in making sure you are dealing with the time properly. For many students, one of their biggest problems is that they don’t do enough practice in a timed setting so pacing on test day becomes overwhelming. Help acclimate yourself to this stress by normalizing the timed nature of the test. Make it a game to see how quickly you can do problems without making errors. Feeling like you have a handle on the timing of the SAT can go a long way toward helping you to feel confident during the test.

Learn Five Vocabulary Words, Review Ten Words. Developing a system for vocabulary with regular learning and reviewing is crucial on the SAT. This kind of concerted vocabulary training will not take more than five minutes, but can produce fantastic results. In just the six weeks from Thanksgiving to New Years, students can add 120 vocab words to their repertoire. If you are using vocabulary lists in the SAT 2400 In Just 7 Steps book by Shaan Patel, remember to eliminate words you already know to maximize your efforts (though it’s a good idea to review all of the words, just in case). This method will actually prove extremely effective in creating long term memory for these definitions as gradual repetition is one of the best methods for forming memory. Challenge yourself to use all five words in a conversation the day you learn them. Show your great aunt you are brainy as well as tall.

The Holiday season should certainly be a time of rest and relaxation and I firmly believe that it is good for the brain to have periods where it is not asked to complete arduous tasks. With that said, the slightly lower work load from school provides an opportunity to utilize your time for other efforts (like college applications, extracurriculars, and the SAT). Remember, consistency and attitude are the two keys to success, so carve out twenty minutes, turn off all distractions, and use the Holidays to bolster your studying so you come out of them rested and ready to attack the test!

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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When going through the quantitative section of the GMAT, you will often be confronted by numbers that are, shall we say, unwieldy (some people refer to them as “insane”). It is common on the exam to see numbers like 11!, 15^8, or even 230,050,672. Regardless of the form of the number, the common mistake that many novice test takers make is the same: They try to actually solve the number.

Now, some numbers are spelled out down to the decimals, but other numbers, such as 11!, seem unnecessarily abstract. 11 factorial is a big number, but wouldn’t it be simpler if I had a concrete number in front of me instead of a shorthand notation for 10 multiplications. The answer is: not really. If you wanted to expand 11! To get a longhand answer, you’ll end up with a large concrete number that is no easier to manipulate than the shorthand you had before. For example, 11! is actually 39,916,800. Does that make it any easier to use? Again, the answer is: not really.

In essence, every time you see a big number like this, the GMAT is baiting you into performing tedious calculations that don’t help you in any way. Having a cumbersome number is the GMAT’s way of saying “Don’t try and solve this with brute force, there’s a concept here you should recognize”. While it’s uncommon for the GMAT to actually speak, given that it’s an admissions exam, it actually is telling you loud and clear that concentrating on the number is a trap. There will always be some element that will help highlight the underlying issue without performing tedious math.

There are many concepts that may come into play, and it’s hard to approach these questions with a single standard approach, but some elements repeat more frequently than others. One of the first things to look for is the units digit. The units digit gives away many properties of a number. As an example, 39,916,800 ends with a 0, indicating that it is even, and that it is divisible by 10. Different units digits can yield different number properties, so you can learn a lot from one simple digit. The factors of the number in question can often unlock clues as to which numbers to look for among the answer choices. Finally the order of magnitude can also play a pivotal role in determining how to approach a question.

Since we don’t have one definitive strategy, let’s test our mental agility on an actual GMAT question:

For integers x, y and z, if ((2^x)^(y))^(z) = 131,072, which of the following must be true:

(A) The product xyz is even

(B) The product xyz is odd

(C) The product xy is even

(D) The product yz is prime

(E) The product yz is positive

This question is significantly easier if you recognize which power of two 131,072 is off the bat (I knew that Computer Science degree would be good for something). However, let’s approach this knowing that 131,072 is a multiple of two, but that calculating which one would require more time than the two minutes we have earmarked for this question. Furthermore, simply knowing that 131,072 is a power of 2 gives us all the information we really need to solve this question.

We know x, y and z will combine to form some integer, but we’re not sure which. Let’s call it integer R (as in Ron) for simplicity’s sake. Moreover, the way the equation is set up, the powers will all be multiplied by one another, meaning that their exact order won’t matter. As such, the commutative law of mathematics confirms that if ((2^5)^(3))^(2) is the exact same thing as ((2^3)^(2))^(5). If the order doesn’t matter, then there are a lot of potential situations that could occur. So R will equal x + y + z, but the order won’t change anything. Let’s look at the answer choices, and start from the end because they’re easier to eliminate.

Answer choice E asks us whether y*z must be positive. If y*z gives us some positive number, then x would just be whatever is left over to form R. It doesn’t matter is y*z is positive or negative, as x can just come and make up the difference. Let’s say y*z = 4, then x would just be R – 4. If, instead, y*z = -4, then x would just be R – 12 and there would be no difference. In other words, as long as one variable is unrestricted, it will always be able to make up for the restriction on the other two. If you recognize this, you can eliminate C, D and E for the same reason. Two out of three ain’t bad, but in this case, it ain’t enough.

This brings us down to answer choices A and B, which are complimentary. Either the product of the three numbers is even, or it is odd. One of these, logically, must be true. Unfortunately, the best way to verify this appears to be doing the calculation longhand (like the petals of a flower: she loves me, she loves me not). Herein lays a potential shortcut: the units digit. Since the number is a power of two, we can simply follow the pattern of multiples of two and see what we get. Considering primarily the units digit (underlined for emphasis):

2^1 = 2

2^2 = 4

2^3 = 8

2^4 = 16

2^5 = 32

2^6 = 64

2^7 = 128

2^8 = 256

2^9 = 512

You probably don’t have to go this far to notice the pattern, but it doesn’t hurt to confirm if you’re not sure after 2^5. Essentially, the unit digit oscillates in a fixed pattern: 2, 4, 8, 6, and then repeats. This is helpful, because the number in question ends with a 2, and every power of two that ends with a 2 is either 2^1, 2^5, 2^9, etc. All of these numbers are odd powers of 2, repeating every fourth element. With this pattern clearly laid out, it becomes apparent that the answer must be that the product of these three variables must be odd. As such, answer choice B is correct here. We can also probably deduce from order of magnitude that 131,072 is 2^17.

When it comes to large numbers on the GMAT, you should never try to use brute force to solve the problem. The numbers are arbitrarily large to dissuade you from trying to actually calculate the numbers, and they can be made arbitrarily larger on the next question to waste even more of your time. The GMAT is a test of how you think, so thinking in terms of constantly calculating the same numbers over and over limits you to being an ineffective calculator. Your smart phone currently has at least 100 times your computational power (but not the ability to use it independently… yet…). Brute force may break some doors down, but mental agility is a skeleton key.

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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Leadership is the most valued of MBA interpersonal skills. Sure teamwork, maturity and the million other skills admissions committees are looking for you to showcase are all important, but nothing signals MBA like those vaunted leadership skills. Everybody wants to highlight those pesky leadership skills, but does everybody have the ammunition to pull this off? The quick answer is, YES! Whether you know it or not every candidate from the most qualified to the least qualified usually has some leadership examples that can be crafted into a compelling essay.

So how do we start to identify and uncover these leadership experiences? Let’s look into some of the bigger experiential categories to find our leadership stories.

Academia

These are your formative years and tend to provide some nice coming of age leadership stories. You generally do not want to pull too many leadership stories prior to college because it may signal that you have not accomplished much recently, so try and keep things relatively current. Academia is a great place to uncover leadership stories because it is a very similar setting to what b-school will be like in the sense that you are surrounded by peers. Look into the big and small of when you interacted with others and parse situations when you led. Teamwork and leadership go hand in hand so if the outright leadership examples don’t jump out to you then start with teamwork examples and leadership should follow.

Extra-Curricular

Another big area for leadership examples is with extra-curriculars. Have you had leadership responsibilities in a fraternity/sorority, athletics, or in a student club? Leadership stories from this category tend to really highlight interpersonal skills well particularly where challenging situations occur. This is a great area to mine essay responses for these types of questions. Also, these situations tend to be a bit more interesting because of how social in nature they are so don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through here.

Civic Obligations/ Volunteer

What organizations have you lead or influenced in or out of the workplace? This category is generally for post-undergraduate life and tends to illuminate personal passions for applicants. Do not be concerned if you weren’t the Executive Director of the non-profit or raised the most money for the Red Cross initiative it’s all about what role did you play and how your leadership skills factored in.

Work Experience

This is probably the most obvious and easiest area for candidates to highlight leadership. Remember just because you do not have formal leadership responsibilities does not mean leadership did not take place. Think of the project, products, and work streams you’ve led. These are the areas most candidates will thrive. Make sure to set the stakes in your examples so the reader knows how important this leadership example was for your career and the company as a whole.

Leadership can exist anywhere, canvas these categories in your personal narrative and find the examples that showcase you as the leader you will be on campus.

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.

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We have discussed weighted averages in detail here but one thing we are yet to talk about is how you decide what the weights will be in weighted average problems. It is not always straight forward to identify the weights. For example, in a question such as this one,

While traveling from Detroit to Novi, a car averaged 10 miles per gallon, and while traveling from Novi to Lapeer, it averaged 18 miles per gallon. If the distance between Detroit and Novi is half the distance between Novi and Lapeer, what is the average miles per gallon for the entire journey?

We have two figures for mileage given here – 10 miles per gallon and 18 miles per gallon. We need to find the average mileage. So we can use the weighted average formula but what will the weights be? Will they be 1:2 since the distance between the two cities is given to be in the ratio 1:2? If you think that taking the distance to be the weights in this problem is correct, then you fell for the trap in this question.

To explain the concept, let us use a simpler example first:

When talking about average speed, what are the weights? We know that the weight given to each speed is the time for which that speed was maintained, right? Yes! But why?

Let’s review our weighted average formula:

Cavg = (C1*w1 + C2*w2)/(w1 + w2)

Average Speed = (Speed1*Time1 + Speed2*Time2)/(Time1 + Time2)

Average Speed = (Distance1 + Distance2)/(Time 1 + Time2)

Average Speed = Total Distance/Total Time

This is an accurate representation of average speed.

Now see what happens when you use distance as the weights.

Cavg = (C1*w1 + C2*w2)/(w1 + w2)

Average Speed = (Speed1*Distance1 + Speed2*Distance2)/(Distance1 + Distance2)

Speed*Distance doesn’t represent any physical quantity. So this doesn’t make sense. The units of the quantities will help you see the relation clearly.

Cavg = (C1*w1 + C2*w2)/(w1 + w2)

Average Speed = (Speed1*Time1 + Speed2*Time2)/(Time1 + Time2)

What happens when you take distance as the weights?

Cavg = (C1*w1 + C2*w2)/(w1 + w2)

Average Speed = (Speed1*Distance1 + Speed2*Distance2)/(Distance1 + Distance2)

Average Speed = (miles/hour * miles + miles/hour * miles)/(miles + miles)

miles^2/hour doesn’t represent a physical quantity and hence doesn’t make sense here. Therefore, whenever you are confused what the weights should be, look at the units.

Let’s go back to the original question now. Average required is miles per gallon. So you are trying to find the weighted average of two quantities whose units must be miles/gallon.

Cavg = (C1*w1 + C2*w2)/(w1 + w2)

The unit of Cavg, C1 and C2 is miles/gallon so w1 and w2 should be in gallons to get

Question: While traveling from Detroit to Novi, a car averaged 10 miles per gallon while traveling from Novi to Lapeer, it averaged 18 miles per gallon. If the distance between Detroit and Novi is half the distance between Novi and Lapeer, what is the average miles per gallon for the entire journey?

Solution:

Let the distance between Detroit and Novi be D. So the distance between Novi and Lapeer must be 2D.

Amount of fuel used to cover distance D = D/10

Amount of fuel used to cover distance 2D = 2D/18 = D/9

Or simply, Average miles/gallon = Total miles/Total gallons = 3D/(D/10 + D/9) = 14.2 miles/gallon

Food for thought: Which one of the following can you solve?

- If a vendor sold 10 apples at a profit of 10% and 15 oranges at a profit of 20%, what was his overall profit%?

- If a vendor sold apples at a profit of 10% and oranges at a profit of 20%, what was his overall profit% if cost price of each apple was $0.20 and the cost price of each orange was $.06?

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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Matt Hamilton is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point where he was commissioned as and engineer officer in the US Army. He has served in Afghanistan and is currently preparing to transition to a full-time MBA program. He just completed the GMAT and with the help of Veritas Prep, he raised his score from a 580 to a 750!

How did you hear about Veritas Prep?

I signed on with Veritas Prep via Service to School, a non-profit that helps veterans make the transition from the military to both undergraduate and graduate school. Veritas Prep has teamed up with Service to School and is awarding free GMAT prep scholarships to select candidates. My Service to School Ambassador, a fellow veteran who is an MBA candidate at the Booth School of Business, thought I was a good fit for the Veritas Prep program and that’s how the process started! I ended up using Veritas Prep and only Veritas Prep to prepare for the GMAT.

What was your initial experience with the GMAT? How did you first feel going in?

I took the diagnostic CAT a week before starting the Veritas Prep course and walked away with a 580 and a bruised ego. Not that I expected a great score on my first test, but it was still a good reality check, and it let me know how much work I had ahead of me. I know I’m definitely not alone when I say this, but finding study time with a busy work schedule is tough, even more so if you have a family. It took me a few weeks to nail down my rhythm. I also took a little longer than I should have to schedule the official test, so by the time my appointment came around I feared that I had forgotten a bunch of material I’d learned in the Veritas Prep course. Regardless, my CAT scores were right around my target range (710-730) and this gave me enough confidence going into the actual test. Even though I’m still a ways off from beginning the school application process, I honestly wanted to be “one and done” with the GMAT as I’m about to take a job with a significantly higher demand on my time.

How did the Veritas Prep course help prepare you?

In my opinion, one of the most devilish aspects of the GMAT is that it stresses thought processes more than concept mastery. The Veritas Prep course hammered that fact home within the first five minutes of study and continued to stress it in each of the lessons. I feel that the value in prep courses lies in the foundation of fundamental concepts for future individual study that they establish. In that regard, the Veritas Prep course (and instructor) did a great job in developing my ability to think through questions so that when I eventually moved to self-study I could look at all the math and verbal concepts through a more logical lens. I should also mention the quality of Veritas Prep’s materials – the lesson books, online problem sets (with solutions), and CATs are all extremely easy to use. In particular, the CATs were pretty spot-on in terms of difficulty and content when compared to the actual GMAT.

Tell us about your test day experience and how you felt throughout the experience?

I had a healthy mix of nerves and confidence. I’d already scouted the test location so I didn’t have to worry about finding the place in the beehive that is downtown Honolulu. Once the test got started I felt like I was back at my house doing another Veritas Prep practice test: equal amounts of “I’ve got this” reactions and “I’m screwed” reactions to the questions that came up on the screen. I didn’t notice too much test fatigue – I did a few full practices on the Veritas Prep site – although about halfway through the verbal section I really wanted nothing more than to finish and see my score. When I clicked past the last page of admin data verification and saw the 750 on the screen I was so excited that I couldn’t get out of my chair for almost three minutes.

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

You’ve talked to friends, family, and colleagues and made the big decision that you want an MBA. Now, the hard part is determining where you should apply. Some candidates already have their dream school in mind when they begin the application journey and others simply copy and past a list of the top 10 programs. However the majority of applicants have no clue how to get started when it comes to deciding where to apply. Since b-school is one of the biggest decisions you will make in your life, the target school selection process should be treated with a similar level of importance.

Schools put applications through a true 360-degree review process once submitted and you should scrutinize schools the same way when you’re setting up your list. Here are a few criteria to help you put together a list of your target MBA programs.

1. Geography

Where do you want to live? If you’re open, that’s great! You have tons of schools at your disposal. If you have restrictions by city, region, or country this is a good place kick start your list. Also, note that many students work in the region of their school post-grad so make sure you are potentially comfortable with this reality as well. So decide whether your school is more of a regional, national or international powerhouse and how comfortable you are with what this means.

2. Career

What do you want to do post-MBA? Certain schools are industry feeders, some are well known like Kellogg with CPGs and Wharton with Investment Banks, but others are more nuanced and can be uncovered via a quick peek into the yearly job report.

3. Focus/Programs

What are you looking to learn in business school? Focus on the functional areas that you are looking to develop and use that to filter your list. If you want to study media-management then schools that do not offer such specialized coursework may not make sense for you.

4. Stats

So you’ve narrowed down your list and now its time to get real. Are you academically qualified for the schools on your list? GMAT and GPA averages and ranges are a good place to start when making your case here. The farther you skew left or right of the mean will indicate your relative competitiveness for a program on paper. Qualifiers like age, work experience type (analytical vs. not), and undergraduate rigor will all factor into the relative importance of these stats, so keep this in mind as you filter your choices.

5. Fit

People, learning style, and class size should all factor into what type of b-school experience you are looking to have. Determine what settings you thrive in and weigh the pros and cons. In person visits, outreach to alums, and conversations with current students are a great way to get a feel for your programs of interest.

6. Reputation

Last but not least is reputation. I know most people start here but I really would caution against it. Focus on other more tangible areas of your target programs and use reputation as an additional filter or as a way to rank your final list. Also, if you still have a big list use reputation as a way to truncate things so you can focus on a realistic list of programs.

Do your due diligence upfront as you determine your target list and it will pay dividends come decision day.

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.

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