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Among the most frequent questions we receive here at Veritas Prep headquarters (sadly, “How much am I allowed to tip my instructor?” is not one of them!) is the genre of “On my most recent practice test, I got X right and Y wrong and only Z wrong in a row… Why was my score higher/lower than my other test with A right and B wrong and C wrong in a row?” inquiries from students desperately trying to understand the GMAT scoring algorithm. We’ve talked previously in this space about why simply counting rights and wrongs isn’t all that great a predictor of your score. And perhaps the best advice possible relates to our Sentence Correction advice here a few months ago: Accept that there are some things you can’t change and focus on making a difference where you can.

But we also support everyone’s desire to leave no stone unturned in pursuit of a high GMAT score and everyone’s intellectual curiosity with regard to computer-adaptive testing. So with the full disclosure that these items won’t help you game the system and that your best move is to turn that intellectual curiosity toward mastering GMAT concepts and strategies, here are four major reasons that your response pattern — did you miss more questions early in the test vs. late in the test; did you miss consecutive questions or more sporadic questions, etc. — won’t help you predict your score:

1) The all-important A-parameter.

Item Response Theory incorporates three metrics for each “item” (or “question” or “problem”): the B parameter is the closest measurement to pure “difficulty”. The C parameter is essentially a measure of likelihood that a correct answer can be guessed. And the A parameter tells the scoring system how much to weight that item. Yes, some problems “count” more than others do (and not because of position on the test).

Why is that? Think of your own life; if you were going to, say, buy a condo in your city, you’d probably ask several people for their opinion on things like the real estate market in that area, mortgage rates, the additional costs of home ownership, the potential for renting it if you were to move, etc. And you’d value each opinion differently. Your very risk-loving friend may not have the opinion to value highest on “Will I be able to sell this at a profit if I get transferred to a new city?” (his answer is “The market always goes up!”) whereas his opinion on the neighborhood itself might be very valuable (“Don’t underestimate how nice it will be to live within a block of the blue line train”). Well, GMAT questions are similar: Some are extremely predictive (e.g. 90% of those scoring over 700 get it right, and only 10% of those scoring 690 or worse do) and others are only somewhat predictive (60% of those 700+ get this right, but only 45% of those below 700 do; here getting it right whispers “above 700″ whereas before it screams it).

So while you may want to look at your practice test and try to determine where it’s better to position your “misses,” you’ll never know the A-values of any of the questions, so you just can’t tell which problems impacted your score the most.

2) Content balancing.

OK, you might then say, the test should theoretically always be trying to serve the highest value questions, so shouldn’t the larger A-parameters come out first? Not necessarily. The GMAT values balanced content to a very high degree: It’s not fair if you see a dozen geometry problems and your friend only sees two, or if you see the less time-consuming Data Sufficiency questions early in the test while someone else budgets their early time on problem solving and gets a break when the last ten are all shorter problems. So the test forces certain content to be delivered at certain times, regardless of whether the A-parameter for those problems is high or low. By the end of the test you’ll have seen various content areas and A-parameters… You just won’t know where the highest value questions took place.

3) Experimental items.

In order to know what those A, B, and C parameters are, the GMAT has to test its questions on a variety of users. So on each section, several problems just won’t count — they’re only there for research. And this can be true of practice tests, too (the Veritas Prep tests, for example, do contain experimental questions). So although your analysis of your response pattern may say that you missed three in a row on this test and gotten eight right in a row on the other, in reality those streaks could be a lot shorter if one or more of those questions didn’t count. And, again, you just won’t know whether a problem counted or not, so you can’t fully read into your response pattern to determine how the test should have been scored.

4) Item delivery vs. Score calculation.

One common prediction people make about GMAT scoring is that missing multiple problems in a row hurts your score substantially more than missing problems scattered throughout the test. The thinking goes that after one question wrong the system has to reconsider how smart it thought you were; then after two it knows for sure that you’re not as smart as advertised; and by the third it’s in just asking “How bad is he?” In reality, however, as you’ve read above, the “get it right –> harder question; get it wrong –> easier question” delivery system is a bit more nuanced and inclusive of experimentals and content balancing than people think. So it doesn’t work quite like the conventional wisdom suggests.

What’s more, even when the test delivers you an easier question and then an even easier question, it’s not directly calculating your score question by question. It’s estimating your score question-by-question in order to serve you the most meaningful questions it can, but it calculates your score by running its algorithm across all questions you’ve seen. So while missing three questions in a row might lower the current estimate of your ability and mean that you’ll get served a slightly easier question next, you can also recover over the next handful of questions. And then when the system runs your score factoring in the A, B, and C parameters of all of your responses to “live” (not experimental) questions, it doesn’t factor in the order in which those questions were presented — it only cares about the statistics. So while it’s certainly a good idea to get off to a good start in the first handful of problems and to avoid streaks of several consecutive misses, the rationale for that is more that avoiding early or prolonged droughts just raises your degree of difficulty. If you get 5 in a row wrong, you need to get several in a row right to even that out, and you can’t afford the kinds of mental errors that tend to be common and natural on a high-stakes exam. If you do manage to get the next several right, however, you can certainly overcome that dry spell.

In summary, it’s only natural to look at your practice tests and try to determine how the score was calculated and how you can use that system to your advantage. In reality, however, there are several unseen factors that affect your score that you just won’t ever see or know, so the best use of that curiosity and energy is learning from your mistakes so that the computer — however it’s programmed — has no choice but to give you the score that you want.

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When you first get down to the business of choosing colleges to apply to, the amount of available information that is thrown at you can be daunting. The endless lists of statistics and rankings are difficult to process. The task of actually choosing 8-10 schools that you like more than the rest can seem borderline impossible.

To deal with this dilemma many students look for schools based on common and general factors. Location, cost, size, and majors offered are primary considerations for students, and all of them are very important. Additionally, students use standardized test scores, acceptance rates, and US News rankings to gauge the prestige of the schools and judge whether they are “good enough” for them. These are an important start in searching for colleges, but the reality is that choosing a college is like choosing a new home. If you were buying a new house, you would be careful to learn about your neighbors, the restaurants nearby, the layout of your building, the proximity to your office, and much more. Just like in finding a house, finding the right college for you will be the result of scouring for details.

Here are a few overlooked but vital things to look for in a college that will help you both narrow down your application list and end up at a school you’ll love.

Housing (And Not Just for Freshman Year!) Where you live might not seem like it will impact your education much, but having a comfortable living space can be key to feeling at home at your school. Now, you don’t need to live in a luxury apartment, but having clean, safe dorms at a good spot on campus can only add to your college experience. Word of warning – be sure to look at housing options for beyond your freshman year. You won’t want to overlook a school’s policy about off-campus housing only to realize later on that your school doesn’t allow you much choice in your living space.

[*]Paid Internships/Co-ops. Many students are concerned about their job prospects after graduating college. Typically they look at statistics like average salaries of graduates and job placement rates. Often neglected in the search is the existence of paid internships or college-sponsored Co-Op programs. This is a mistake; opportunities like these provide students with valuable work experience while also dishing out a little extra cash, something that students with loans can really benefit from. Check to see if a college you are looking at offers these – if they do and you take advantage, your experience is likely to pay dividends down the road. While you’re at it, take a look at the school’s career service center to make sure it is helpful and effective![/list]

[*]Academic Support Services. No matter how rigorous your high school was, the sheer nature of college academics will likely come as a shock to you. Luckily, many colleges provide a multitude of resources to help manage this transition and support your intellectual growth throughout your four years there. Seek out colleges with writing centers, tutoring services, and workshops to improve your academic skills. College work is challenging, so the availability of services like these can make assignments less daunting and give yourself a foundation of confidence from which you can grow and develop.[/list]

[*]Professor Quality and Accessibility. Some students will apply to a college based on the vague notion that it is “good for (insert major here).” Instead of relying on these dubious notions of reputation, do some research about the professors in the departments you are interested in. What are their areas of expertise? How available are they for extra help, and do students take advantage of these opportunities? Are professors actually involved in student life, or do they mainly just stick to research with graduate students? Are their teaching skills praised? Having professors you like and respect is integral to liking your major, doing well in class, and getting strong letters of recommendation.[/list] Most importantly, remember that your college search process is primarily about you. Think hard about what you like and what your goals are, and you’ll find schools that feel like a perfect fit in no time. Taking the time to delve into the college search with an active and probing mind is your first step to happiness and success in higher education. Go get looking today!

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We have discussed these three concepts of statistics in detail:

– Arithmetic mean is the number that can represent/replace all the numbers of the sequence. It lies somewhere in between the smallest and the largest values.

– Median is the middle number (in case the total number of numbers is odd) or the average of two middle numbers (in case the total number of numbers is even).

– Standard deviation is a measure of the dispersion of the values around the mean.

A conceptual question is how these three measures change when all the numbers of the set are varied is a similar fashion.

For example, how does the mean of a set change when all the numbers are increased by say, 10? How does the median change? And what about the standard deviation? What happens when you multiply each element of a set by the same number?

Let’s discuss all these cases in detail but before we start, we would like to point out that the discussion will be conceptual. We will not get into formulas though you can arrive at the answer by manipulating the respective formulas.

When you talk about mean or median or standard deviation of a list of numbers, imagine the numbers lying on the number line. They would be spread on the number line in a certain way. For example,

——0—a———b—c———————d———e————————f—g———————

Case I:

When you add the same positive number (say x) to all the elements, the entire bunch of numbers moves ahead together on the number line. The new numbers a’, b’, c’, d’, e’, f’ and g’ would look like this

The relative placement of the numbers does not change. They are still at the same distance from each other. Note that the numbers have moved further to the right of 0 now to show that they have moved ahead on the number line.

The mean lies somewhere in the middle of the bunch and will move forward by the added number. Say, if the mean was d, the new mean will be d’ = d + x.

So when you add the same number to each element of a list,

New mean = Old mean + Added number.

On similar lines, the median is the middle number (d in this case) and will move ahead by the added number. The new median will be d’ = d + x

So when you add the same number to each element of a list,

New median = Old median + Added number

Standard deviation is a measure of dispersion of the numbers around the mean and this dispersion does not change when the whole bunch moves ahead as it is. Standard deviation does not depend on where the numbers lie on the number line. It depends on how far the numbers are from the mean. So standard deviation of 3, 5, 7 and 9 is the same as the standard deviation of 13, 15, 17 and 19. The relative placement of the numbers in both the cases will be the same. Hence, if you add the same number to each element of a list, the standard deviation will stay the same.

Case II:

Let’s now move on to the discussion of multiplying each element by the same positive number.

The original placing of the numbers on the number line looked like this:

——0—a———b—c———————d———e————————f—g———————

The new placing of the numbers on the number line will look something like this:

The numbers spread out. To understand this, take an example. Say, the initial numbers were 10, 20 and 30. If you multiply each number by 2, the new numbers are 20, 40 and 60. The difference between them has increased from 10 to 20.

If you multiply each number by x, the mean also gets multiplied by x. So, if d was the mean initially, d’ will be the new mean which is x*d.

New mean = Old mean * Multiplied number

Similarly, the median will also get multiplied by x.

New median = Old median * Multiplied number

What happens to standard deviation in this case? It changes! Since the numbers are now further apart from the mean, their dispersion increases and hence the standard deviation also increases. The new standard deviation will be x times the old standard deviation. You can also establish this using the standard deviation formula.

New standard deviation = Old standard deviation * Multiplied number

The same concept is applicable when you increase each number by the same percentage. It is akin to multiplying each element by the same number. Say, if you increase each number by 20%, you are, in effect, multiplying each number by 1.2. So our case II applies here.

Now, think about what happens when you subtract/divide each element by the same number.

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

When completing multiple college applications, they can start to blend together and you may find that each application and each college looks like the other. Be vigilant so that you don’t make careless mistakes that will affect your chances of admission. Veritas Prep consultants can work with you to ensure that you are submitting the best applications possible and that you will not run into any of the common mistakes outlined below.

1. Proofread your application before submitting.

In this texting age, capitalization, punctuation, and grammar have fallen by the wayside. Remember that the college application is a representation of who you are and your chance to make a great first impression on the admissions officer. Don’t depend on spell check to catch your mistakes; many items may not be misspelled, but may be incorrect (i.e.: from vs. form, but vs. buy, to the vs. tot he)! Spell check also can’t make sure that you’ve included the correct college’s name in your personal statements so double and triple check! Make sure that you proofread your complete application (that means EVERYTHING, not just the essay) before submitting.

2. Talk about yourself. Be yourself.

While you may have a great story about your grandmother, dog, friend, father, teacher, etc. that you really want to share, don’t lose sight of the main purpose of your application: to show the admissions officer who you are and why they should admit you into their college. Don’t worry about trying to write something that you think admissions officers want to hear; write an authentic story that makes a compelling argument for why you should be admitted and shows your interests, passions, and personality. Many students will start actively using the thesaurus to use words that make them sound smarter, but this can come across as awkward and unnatural. Find your true voice and use it.

3. Submit a well-written personal statement.

The personal statement is your one opportunity to provide the college with a voice that is uniquely yours. Use the personal statement to provide the college information about you that is nowhere else in your application – each component of your application should provide the reader with new information. No one wants to read the same information over and over again. Read the essay prompts carefully and answer the questions. Every word on that application should be purposeful and full of information; you have stringent word limits so choose ones that count!

4. Use a professional email address and check it often.

Again, making a first impression is very important in the admissions process and you want to make sure that your email address is not a deterrent to your admissions. Set aside your sexychick101 or womanizer123 email addresses to use for spam and create a more professional email address for all of your college communications. Check your email often since colleges are using email more and more to communicate with applicants. When you receive a request for more information from the admissions office, respond professionally and promptly. When completing your applications, double check that your email address is correct! You want to make sure that johndoe@email.com is receiving your email and not johndeo@email.com!

5. Know your legal name.

You may be known as “Bob” to all of your friends and have never been called any other name growing up. However, on your legal documentation, your name may actually be “Charles.” Make sure that the name you use on your application and standardized testing matches your legal documentation (i.e.: social security card or passport) from the first step of your application. If you input this incorrectly, it can take a lot of time to rectify the mistake and your documents may not be properly connected to your application.

6. Don’t forget to send all the proper documents to the college.

Just because you hit the “submit” button on your application doesn’t mean that you are completely done. You may still need to send standardized test scores, mid-year reports, and final transcripts directly to the colleges at some point during the admissions process. Because many of these items require an extra step on your part, it is quite easy to forget to complete these items. Financial aid applications are also often separate from the college applications and missing those deadlines may mean that you lose the opportunity to access additional funding for your education.

7. Don’t wait until the last minute!

Life can get very busy and the college application deadlines will come faster than you can imagine. Resist the temptation to wait until the last minute to work on your applications; a quality application will take time to develop and the process actually requires a good amount of introspection and self-analysis – all things that cannot be rushed. Give yourself ample time to work on your applications and start early! In addition, make sure that you pay attention to application deadlines and correctly calculate the time difference. To be safe, we recommend that you submit your application at least a couple of days before the deadline. You never know when that application server will go down or some unexpected circumstance will prevent you from submitting on time.

Veritas Prep is committed to helping students put together the best college applications possible. All of our consultants have prior admissions experience at the top colleges in the world and have evaluated students just like you.

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

Three years ago this month, the team here at Veritas Prep launched a new project to completely reinvent how we build and administer GMAT practice tests for our students. A home-built system that started with the GMAT Question Bank (launched in October, 2012) soon grew into a whole computer-adaptive testing system containing thousands of questions and employing Item Response Theory to produce some of the most authentic practice tests in the industry. We launched our new practice test in May, 2013, and five months later we made five tests available to everyone. We later added two more tests, bringing the total number to seven that anyone could get. (Veritas Prep students get five additional computer-adaptive tests, for a total of 12.)

The whole time, we kept evaluating the current bank questions (aka “items” in testing parlance), adding new ones, and measuring the ability levels of tens thousands of GMAT students. To date, we have gathered more than 12 million responses from students, and put all of that data to work to keep making our tests better and better. And we keep doing this every week.

Earlier this year, we embarked on a new chapter in the development of our computer-adaptive testing system: We began working with Dr. Larry Rudner, the former Chief Psychometrician at the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), and the definitive authority on the GMAT examination. Dr. Rudner took a look at every aspect of our system, from how we manage our items, to how good each item is at helping our system measure ability levels, to how we employ Item Response Theory to produce an accurate ability level for each test taker. In the end, not only did Dr. Rudner provide us with a roadmap for how to make our tests even better, but he also gave us a great deal of praise for the system that we have now.

I have spent a great deal of time getting to know Veritas Prep’s item bank and computer-adaptive tests. From creating high-quality questions to accurately measuring student abilities using Item Response Theory to implementing a Computer Adaptive Testing algorithm that closely matches that of the real GMAT® exam, Veritas Prep has developed the most robust testing system I have seen in the test prep industry. Their practice tests provide a truly authentic test experience for students.

– Lawrence M. Rudner, PhD, MBA. Former Chief Psychometrician at GMAC and the definitive authority on the GMAT exam

Or work on our practice tests will never stop — after all, every month we add new items to our GMAT Question Bank, and many of these questions eventually make it into our computer-adaptive tests — but Dr. Rudner’s endorsement is particularly satisfying given the thousands of hours that have gone into building a testing system as robust as ours. When you take this or any practice test (even the official ones from GMAC), keep in mind that it never can perfectly predict how you will perform on test day. But, with Veritas Prep’s own practice tests, you have the confidence of knowing that more than three years of hard work and over 12 million responses from other students have gone into giving you as authentic a practice experience as possible.

We plan on putting this system to use in even more places, and helping even more students prepare for a wide variety of exams… That’s how powerful Item Response Theory is. Stay tuned!

Finally, we love talking and writing about this stuff. If you’re relatively new to studying for the GMAT or understanding how these tests work, check out some of our previous articles on computer-adaptive testing:

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

Many of my students tell me that the most difficult questions in the Writing Section are those testing knowledge of idiomatic phrases. An idiomatic phrase is simply a phrase that is commonly used by native speakers; so an idiomatic phrase can be anything from the common way native speakers use prepositions – such as “in”, “around”, “of”, and “above” – to what aphorisms native speakers tend to use – such as “don’t count your chickens before they hatch.” On the SAT you are typically only tested on your knowledge of idiomatic preposition use, not on your knowledge of aphorisms. For example, if you want to be truly prepared for the SAT, you should be able to hear the idiomatic error in this sentence: “I have the ability of listening carefully to my friends.” In English, we use the preposition “to” with the word ability, so the correct sentence would read: “I have the ability to listen carefully to my friends.”

So why are idiomatic errors so difficult to identify? Unlike common errors on the SAT, such as subject-verb disagreement or a misplaced modifier, there’s no one rule for identifying idiomatic errors. For the most part, students only spot an idiomatic error by noticing that a particular phrase “sounds wrong.” Unfortunately, this method isn’t foolproof: for one thing, you may not think a phrase sounds wrong if you aren’t very familiar with it. This is true for both non-native English speakers and native English speakers because the SAT sometimes tests old-fashioned and/or high-brow idiomatic phrases that you’ll only know if you read regularly. Therefore, even when you do notice a phrase that sounds odd to your ear, it’s difficult to know whether or not the phrase sounds funny because it’s truly wrong, or because you simply aren’t familiar with the phrase.

To illustrate, take a look at this question:

You may have noticed that the SAT test-writers are testing your knowledge of how English speakers typically use prepositions with the word “particular” and with the object “pockets”. When I show my students this question, most of them say that D sounds fine but that A sounds funny to them. However, they are wary of choosing A as their final answer, because they don’t know why it’s wrong. Normally, about half of my students choose A and half choose E (no error).

Here’s one quick tip I tell my students to use when they can’t decide if a sentence contains an idiomatic error: use the tested phrase in your own sentence. For example, if I were to use the word particular in a sentence, I might say: “I am not very particular about what I eat.”

So, when I use the word particular, I naturally use the preposition “about”, not the preposition “in”. Now I can comfortably choose A as my final answer, which is correct.

Now, I want you to try the same thing with the following example! If you encounter any “funny sounding” phrases, try using them in your own sentence to test whether or not they are idiomatically correct. And don’t peak at the explanation!

Explanation:

You may have noticed that the phrase, “Opposite to” sounds funny. If you tried it in your own sentence, such as, “opposite to me, my sister loves to bake”, you should have noticed that your sentence sounds unnatural. It’s much more comfortable to say, “Unlike me, my sister loves to bake”. So, in this case, the correct answer is A.

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

Lots of folks ask about quitting their jobs when applying to business school. I understand the desire to do so, since there are many reasons people take off from work, including taking some time off for travel, pursuing something new professionally, and preparing for the GMAT or other academic endeavors to get you ready for the b-school plunge. Whether or not this will affect how the admissions committees look at your application depends on many factors, the most important of which are what specifically you are doing and why you are doing it.

The best way to package such a move is when it’s fueled by passion. If you take on an adventurous trip that you have always wanted to do while you are young, that can work. If you are tired of work and want to couch surf for a few months to relax before b-school, that might not be as impressive. Remember business schools want to admit driven, engaged students, so anything that connotes laziness or apathy is obviously out of the question.

Another pursuit that b-schools will like to see is if you quit your job to pursue something professionally that will be a positive intermediary step between what you are doing now and what you will be doing when you get out of school. Not only will the schools like to see this affirmative, directional choice, but recruiters will also like it. Besides your internship, this is your last chance to do anything in the working world pre-MBA, so if you feel your resume could be bolstered by a year in a new job or role, then go for it. Successful applicants are the kinds of people who make things happen, so being perceived by the admissions committees in this way is beneficial.

I will say that business schools do not look as favorably on the decision to quit one’s job to study for the GMAT or to take classes to prepare. These are great things to do, but schools would rather see you do them concurrently with your job. Business school is busy and requires good time management and juggling of responsibilities, so having to quit your day job in order to do well enough on the GMAT to get into school can sometimes be perceived as not being a good time manager, which is a red flag to the admissions folks.

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

The GMAT is an exam that aims to test how you think about things. Many people have heard this mantra when studying for the GMAT, but it’s not always clear what it means. While there are many formulae and concepts to know ahead of taking the exam, you will be constantly thinking throughout the exam about how to solve the question in front of you. The GMAT specializes in asking questions that require you to think about the solution, not just to plug in numbers mindlessly and return whatever your calculator tells you (including typos and misplaced decimals).

There are many ways the GMAT test makers ensure that you’re thinking logically about the solution of the question. One common example is that the question will give you a story that you have to translate into an equation. Anyone with a calculator can do 15 * 6 * 2 but it’s another skill entirely to translate that a car dealership that’s open every day but Sunday sells 3 SUVs, 5 trucks and 7 sedans per day for a sale that lasts a fortnight (sadly, the word fortnight is somewhat rare on the GMAT). Which skill is more important in business, crunching arbitrary numbers or deciphering which numbers to crunch? (Trick question: they’re both important!) The difference is a computer will calculate numbers much faster than a human ever will, but being able to determine what equation to set up is the more important skill.

This distinction is rather ironic, because the GMAT often provides questions that are simply equations to be solved. If the thought process is so important, why provide questions that are so straight forward? Precisely because you don’t have a calculator to solve them and you still need to use reasoning to get to the correct answer. An arbitrarily difficult question like 987 x 123 is trivial with a calculator and provides no educational benefit, simply an opportunity to exercise your fingers (and they want to look good for summer!) But without a calculator, you can start looking at interesting concepts like unit digits and order of magnitude in order to determine the correct answer. For business students, this is worth much more than a rote calculation or a mindless computation.

Let’s look at an example that’s just an equation but requires some analysis to solve quickly:

(36^3 + 36) / 36 =

A) 216

B) 1216

C) 1297

D) 1333

E) 1512

This question has no hidden meaning and no interpretation issues. It is as straight forward as 2+2, but much harder because the numbers given are unwieldy. This is, of course, not an accident. A significant number of people will not answer this question correctly, and even more will get it but only after a lengthy process. Let’s see how we can strategically approach a question like this on test day.

Firstly, there’s nothing more to be done here than multiplying a couple of 2-digit numbers, then performing an addition, then performing a division. In theory, each of these operations is completely feasible, so some people will start by trying to solve 36^3 and go from there. However, this is a lengthy process, and at the end, you get an unwieldy number (46,656 to be precise). From there, you need to add 36, and then divide by 36. This will be a very difficult calculation, but if you think of the process we’re doing, you might notice that you just multiplied by 36, and now you’ll have to divide by 36. You can’t exactly shortcut this problem because of the stingy addition, but perhaps we can account for it in some manner.

Multiplying 36 by itself twice will be tedious, but since you’re dividing by 36 afterwards, perhaps you can omit the final multiplication as it will essentially cancel out with the division. The only caveat is that we have to add 36 in between multiplying and dividing, but logically we’re adding 36 and then dividing the sum by 36, which means that this is tantamount to just adding 1. As such, this problem kind of breaks down to just 36 * 36, and then you add 1. If you were willing to multiply 36^3, then 36^2 becomes a much simpler calculation. This operation will yield the correct answer (we’ll see shortly that we don’t even need to execute it), and you can get there entirely by reasoning and logic.

Moreover, you can solve this question using (our friendly neighbour) algebra. When you’re facing a problem with addition of exponents, you always want to turn that problem into multiplication if at all possible. This is because there are no good rules for addition and subtraction with exponents, but the rules for multiplication and division are clear and precise. Taking just the numerator, if you have 36^3 + 36, you can factor out the 36 from both terms. This will leave you with 36 *(36^2 + 1). Considering the denominator again, we end up with (36 *(36^2 + 1)) / 36. This means we can eliminate both the 36 in the numerator and the 36 in the denominator and end up with just (36^2 + 1), which is the same thing we found above.

Now, 36*36 is certainly solvable given a piece of paper and a minute or so, but you can tell a lot from the answer by the answer choices that are given to you. If you square a number with a units digit of 6, the result will always end with 6 as well (this rule applies to all numbers ending in 0, 1, 5 and 6). The result will therefore be some number that ends in 6, to which you must add 1. The final result must thus end with a 7. Perusing the answer choices, only answer choice C satisfies that criterion. The answer must necessarily be C, 1297, even if we don’t spend time confirming that 36^2 is indeed 1,296.

In the quantitative section of the GMAT, you have an average of 2 minutes per question to get the answer. However, this is simply an average over the entire section; you don’t have to spend 2 minutes if you can shortcut the answer in 30 seconds. Similarly, some questions might take you 3 minutes to solve, and as long as you’re making up time on other questions, there’s no problem taking a little longer. However, if you can solve a question in 30 seconds that your peers spend 2 or 3 minutes solving, you just used the secret shortcut that the exam hopes you will use.

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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Someday when he’s not coaching football, playing with the Oakland Athletics, visiting with the Supreme Court, or Tweeting back and forth with Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj, Jim Harbaugh should sit down and take the GMAT.

Because if his interaction with a young, milk-drinking fan is any indication, Harbaugh understands one of the key secrets to success on the GMAT Quant section:

Harbaugh, who told HBO Real Sports this summer about his childhood plan to grow to over 6 feet tall – great height for a quarterback – by drinking as much milk as humanly possible – is a fan of all kinds of milk: chocolate, 2%… But as he tells the young man, the ideal situation for growing into a Michigan quarterback is drinking whole milk, just as the ideal way to attend the Ross School of Business a few blocks from Harbaugh’s State Street office is to use whole numbers on the GMAT.

The main reason? You can’t use a calculator on the GMAT, so while your Excel-and-calculator-trained mind wants to say calculate “75% of 64″ as 0.75 * 64, the key is to think in terms of whole numbers whenever possible. In this case, that means calling “75%” 3/4, because that allows you to do all of your calculations with the whole numbers 3 and 4, and not have to set up decimal math with 0.75. Since 64/4 is cleanly 16 – a whole number – you can calculate 75% by dividing by 4 first, then multiplying by 3: 64/4 is 16, then 16 * 3 = 48, and you have your answer without ever having to deal with messier decimal calculations.

This concept manifests itself in all kinds of problems for which your mind would typically want to think in terms of decimal math. For example:

With percentages, 25% and 75% can be seen as 1/4 and 3/4, respectively. Want to take 20%? Just divide by 5, because 0.2 = 1/5.

If you’re told that the result of a division operation is X.4, keep in mind that the decimal .4 can be expressed as 2/5, meaning that the divisor has to be a multiple of 5 and the remainder has to be even.

If at some point in a calculation it looks like you need to divide, say, 10 by 4 or 15 by 8 or any other type of operation that would result in a decimal, wait! Leaving division problems as improper fractions just means that you’re keeping two whole numbers handy, and knowing the GMAT at some point you’ll end up having to multiply or divide by a number that lets you avoid the decimal math altogether.

So learn from Jim Harbaugh and his obsession with whole milk. Whole milk may be the reasons that his football dreams came true; whole numbers could be a major reason that your business school dreams come true, too.

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Let’s take a look at a very tricky GMAT Prep critical reasoning problem today. Problems such as these make CR more attractive than RC and SC to people who have a Quantitative bent of mind. It’s one of the “explain the paradox” problems, which usually tend to be easy if you know exactly how to tackle them, but the issue here is that it is hard to put your finger on the paradox.

Once you do, then the problem is quite easy.

Question: Technological improvements and reduced equipment costs have made converting solar energy directly into electricity far more cost-efficient in the last decade. However, the threshold of economic viability for solar power (that is, the price per barrel to which oil would have to rise in order for new solar power plants to be more economical than new oil-fired power plants) is unchanged at thirty-five dollars.

Which of the following, if true, does most to help explain why the increased cost-efficiency of solar power has not decreased its threshold of economic viability?

(A) The cost of oil has fallen dramatically.

(B) The reduction in the cost of solar-power equipment has occurred despite increased raw material costs for that equipment.

(C) Technological changes have increased the efficiency of oil-fired power plants.

(D) Most electricity is generated by coal-fired or nuclear, rather than oil-fired, power plants.

(E) When the price of oil increases, reserves of oil not previously worth exploiting become economically viable.

Solution: We really need to understand this $35 figure that is given. The argument calls it “the threshold of economic viability for solar plant.” It is further explained as price per barrel to which oil would have to rise in order for new solar power plants to be more economical than new oil-fired power plants.

Note the exact meaning of this “threshold of economic viability”. It is the price TO WHICH oil would have to rise to make solar power more economical i.e. the price to which oil would have to rise to make electricity generated out of oil power plants more expensive than electricity generated out of solar power plants. So this is a hypothetical price of oil. It is not the price BY WHICH oil would have to rise. So this number 35 has nothing to do with the actual price of oil right now – it could be $10 or $15. The threshold of economic viability will remain 35.

So what the argument tells us is that tech improvements have made solar power cheaper but the price to which oil should rise has stayed the same. If you are not sure where the paradox is, let’s take some numbers to understand:

Previous Situation:

– Sunlight is free. Infrastructure needed to convert it to electricity is expensive. Say for every one unit of electricity, you need to spend $50 in a solar power plant.

– Oil is expensive. Infrastructure needed to convert it to electricity, not so much. Say for every one unit of electricity, the oil needed costs $25 and cost of infrastructure to produce a unit of electricity is $15. So total you spend $40 for a unit of electricity in an oil fired plant.

Oil based electricity is cheaper. If the cost of oil rises by $10 and becomes $35 from $25 assumed above, solar power will become viable. Electricity produced from both sources will cost the same.

Again, note properly what the $35 implies.

Raw material cost in solar plant + Infrastructure cost in solar plant = Raw material cost in oil plant + Infrastructure cost in oil plant

0 + 50 = Hypothetical cost of oil + 15

Hypothetical cost of oil = 50 – 15

That is, this $35 = Infra price per unit in solar plant – Infra price per unit in oil plant

This threshold of economic viability for solar power is the hypothetical price per barrel to which oil would have to rise (mind you, this isn’t the actual price of oil) to make solar power viable.

What happens if you need to spend only $45 in a solar power plant for a unit of electricity? Now, for solar viability, ‘cost of oil + cost of infrastructure in oil power plant’ should be only $45. If ‘cost of infrastructure in oil power plant’ = 15, we need the oil to go up to $30 only. That will make solar power plants viable. So the threshold of economic viability will be expected to decrease.

Now here lies the paradox – The argument tells you that even though the cost of production in solar power plant has come down, the threshold of economic viability for solar power is still $35! It doesn’t decrease. How can this be possible? How can you resolve it?

One way of doing it is by saying that ‘Cost of infrastructure in oil power plant’ has also gone down by $5.

Raw material cost in solar plant + Infrastructure cost in solar plant = Raw material cost in oil plant + Infrastructure cost in oil plant

0 + $45 = $35 + Infrastructure cost in oil plant

Infrastructure cost in oil plant = $10

Current Situation:

– Sunlight is free. Infrastructure needed to convert it to electricity is expensive. For every one unit of electricity, you need to spend $45 in a solar power plant.

– Oil is expensive. Infrastructure needed to convert it to electricity, not so much. For every one unit of electricity, you need to spend $25 + $10 = $35 in an oil fired power plant.

You still need the oil price to go up to $35 so that cost of electricity generation in oil power plant is $45.

So you explained the paradox by saying that “Technological changes have increased the efficiency of oil-fired power plants.” i.e. price of infrastructure in oil power plant has also decreased.

Hence, option (C) is correct.

The other option which seems viable to many people is (A). But think about it, the actual price of the oil has nothing to do with ‘the threshold of economic viability for solar power’. This threshold is $35 so you need the oil to go up to $35. Whether the actual price of oil is $10 or $15 or $20, it doesn’t matter. It still needs to go up to $35 for solar viability. So option (A) is irrelevant.

We hope the paradox and its solution make sense.

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

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The first semester of college is one of the most unique experiences in the world. For many students, it is their first time living on their own. There are a ton of new opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom. For many, it is easy to get overwhelmed by all of the incredible events and offerings at their school. While there is no way to fully prevent that feeling, here are three things to focus on in the first semester to make sure you are taking advantage of your first year at school.

1. Keep Your Dorm Room Open. The people who live on your floor may become some of your best friends freshman year! Studies show that proximity is one of the best catalysts for friendships, and seeing people all day, every day, is a great way to make some of your closest friends in college. Be friendly and outgoing in the first semester and try to say yes to as many social events as possible. This doesn’t mean leaving your door open and throwing a party the night before a big midterm, but being around and willing to hang out with your floor mates. This is a great way to build lasting memories.

2. Sit In The Front Of The Class. Many students worry about coming off as over eager at the start of college—this is a mistake. The point of higher education is to learn both inside and outside of the classroom. The best way to learn in class is to stay active and engaged. College isn’t like high school—you don’t necessarily have to show up to excel. In fact, many students coast through college just fine, showing up occasionally to class and sticking to their laptops and phones instead of listening to the professor lecture. While you would probably be just fine doing that as well, that type of behavior is robbing you of tremendous educational opportunities and experiences. There are world class experts at every college that you have the opportunity to learn from. Sitting in the front row ensures that you will participate in class. This doesn’t mean shouting out every answer, but rather making sure you attend class every week and stay off of your phone. Short term, actually paying attention in class can be tough, but long term it will ensure your years in college, in terms of academic learning, don’t go to waste.

3. Sign Up For Clubs. The first semester of college is the perfect time to explore the various extracurricular activities that interest you. Many students will follow the trajectory of their high school interests and plunge into the school newspaper or student government. Others will set off on entirely new paths and pursue new areas of passion. Whatever the case, going to the club fair is a great way to find small communities on campus that share similar interest with you. Be aware though, while it may seem like a good idea to try and join every interesting group on campus, this is not the way to go. Over extending yourself the first semester in college is a common mistake and one that can backfire in a major way. Make sure not to put too much on your plate too early, but find balance and join a few clubs where you feel you may find new friends and nourish one of your passions.

There are many more things you can, and should do, to make your first semester on campus incredible. These are just a few to consider that will benefit your college experience. Have a great first year!

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.

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

Application season at Harvard Business School is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

There is only one essay question for HBS so it is critical that applicants make the most of the limited real estate available here.

Essay 1:

It’s the first day of class at HBS. You are in Aldrich Hall meeting your “section.” This is the group of 90 classmates who will become your close companions in the first-year MBA classroom. Our signature case method participant-based learning model ensures that you will get to know each other very well. The bonds you collectively create throughout this shared experience will be lasting.

Introduce yourself. (No word limit)

The dreaded open-ended essay prompt has caused many sleepless nights for MBA applicants, couple that with the inherent pressure that results from applying to HBS and this essay may be viewed as one of the more nerve-wracking questions of the application season. Many students struggle with how to tackle this type of essay question and I’m here to tell you to relax and just stay structured.

With seemingly open-ended prompts like this one, the key is to stay structured. Typically, with more detailed essay prompts that have more individualized components within the question the outline of the essay almost writes itself. An open-ended essay like this one requires the applicant to more formally structure the response upfront to ensure the narrative is clear for the AdComm.

However, before diving into the structure, topic selection is critical. This will involve a good deal of introspection both in selecting the anecdotes as well as in the context of your actual writing. Aligning your narrative around a personal or professional passion is a powerful approach to telling your story. The more authentic this passion is the better it will be received by admissions.

Painting a vivid narrative of how the current incarnation of you has manifested will separate the mundane essay from the truly breakthrough essay. It’s about showing and not telling here so highlight the unique experiences that have brought you to this point. With HBS, the pressure to impress tends to be very high but focus less on the outlier stories from your competition (climbed a mountain, sold a start-up, ran a marathon) and focus on letting your own unique personality shine through amidst the anecdotes you share.

This essay honestly at its core is about getting to know you so don’t miss the opportunity by trying to craft the perfect answer for the admissions committee.

These are just a few thoughts on the new essay from HBS. Hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Harvard’s deadlines and essay, check out another post here.

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

In the first session of every new class I teach, I try to emphasize the power and effectiveness of estimating when dealing with potentially complex calculations. No one ever disputes that this is a good approach, but an unspoken assumption is that while you may save a bit of time by estimating, it isn’t absolutely crucial to do so. After all, how long does it take to do a little arithmetic? The problem is that, under pressure, hard arithmetic can cause us to freeze. To illustrate this, I’ll ask, “quick, what’s 1.3 divided by 3.2?” This is usually greeted by blank stares or nervous laughter. But when I ask “okay, what’s 1 divided by 3?” they see the point: trying to solve 1.3/3.2 won’t just be time-consuming, but can easily lead to a careless mistake prompted by arithmetical paralysis.

I didn’t make up that 1.3/3.2 calculation. It comes directly from an official question, and it’s quite clearly designed to elicit the panicked response it usually gets when I ask it in class. Here is the full question:

The age of the Earth is approximately 1.3 * 10^17 seconds, and one year is approximately 3.2 * 10^7 seconds. Which of the following is closest to the age of the Earth in years?

5 * 10^9

1 * 10^9

9 * 10^10

5 * 10^11

1 * 10^11

Most test-takers quickly see that in order to convert from seconds to years, we have to perform the following calculation: 1.3 * 10^17 seconds * 1 year/3.2 * 10^ 7 seconds or (1.3 * 10^17)/(3.2 * 10^ 7.)

It’s here when many test-takers freeze. So let’s estimate. We’ll round 1.3 down to 1, and we’ll round 3.2 down to 3. Now we’re calculating or (1* 10^17)/(3 * 10^ 7.) We can rewrite this expression as (1/3) * (10^17)/(10^7.) This becomes .333 * 10^10. If we borrow a 10 from 10^10, we’ll get 3.33 * 10^9. We know that this number is a little smaller than the correct answer, because we rounded the numerator down from 1.3 to 1, and this was a larger change than the adjustment we made to the denominator. If 3.33 * 10^9 is a little smaller than the correct answer, the answer must be B. (Similarly, if we were to estimate 13/3, we’d see that the number is a little bigger than 4.)

This strategy will work just as well on tough Data Sufficiency questions:

If it took Carlos ½ hour to cycle from his house to the library yesterday, was the distance that he cycled greater than 6 miles? (1 mile = 5280 feet.)

The average speed at which Carlos cycled from his house to the library yesterday was greater than 16 feet per second.

The average speed at which Carlos cycled from his house to the library yesterday was less than 18 feet per second.

The fact that we’re given the conversion from miles to feet is a dead-giveaway that we’ll need to do some unit conversions to solve this question. So we know that the time is ½ hour, or 30 minutes. We want to know if the distance is greater than 6 miles. We’ll call the rate ‘r.’ If we put this question into the form of Rate * Time = Distance, we can rephrase the question as:

Is r * 30 minutes > 6 miles?

We can simplify further to get: Is r > 6 miles/30 minutes or Is r > 1 mile/5 minutes?

A quick glance at the statements reveals that, ultimately, I want to convert into feet per second. I know that 1 mile is 5280 feet and that 5 minutes is 5 *60, or 300 seconds.

Now Is r > 1 mile/5 minutes? becomes Is r > 5280 feet/ 300 seconds. Divide both by 10 to get Is r > 528 feet/30 seconds. Now, let’s estimate. 528 is pretty close to 510. I know that 510/30 is the same as 51/3, or 17. Of course, I rounded down by 18 from 528 to 510, and 18/30 is about .5, so I’ll call the original question:

Is r > 17.5 feet/second?

If we get to this rephrase, the statements become a lot easier to test. Statement 1 tells me that Carlos cycled at a speed greater than 16 feet/second. Well, that could mean he went 16.1 feet/second, which would give me a NO to the original question, or he could have gone 30 feet/second, so I can get a YES to the original question. Not Sufficient.

Statement 2 tells me that his average speed was less than 18 feet/second. That could mean he went 17.9 feet/second, which would give me a YES. Or he could have gone 2 feet/second, which would give me a NO.

Together, I know he went faster than 16 feet/second and slower than 18 feet/second. So he could have gone 16.1 feet/second, which would give a NO, and he could have gone 17.9, which would give a YES, so even together, the statements are not sufficient, and the answer is E.

The takeaway: estimation isn’t simply a luxury on the GMAT; on certain questions, it’s a necessity. If you find yourself grinding through a host of ungainly arithmetical calculations, stop, and remind yourself that there has to be a better, more time-efficient approach.

*GMATPrep questions 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.

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 new SAT will be available in March 2016. The motivation behind changing the test was to offer a more accurate reflection of student’s ability and their intelligence, in addition to testing on material that is comparable to what is learned in school.

While the efficacy of this effort can be widely debated, there is no question that the new test will be remarkably different from the old one. Recently, the College Board just released four practice tests for the new SAT, and there are a couple of key differences and patterns to pick up on in order to excel moving forward.

The new test will be on a scale of 1600 points as opposed to the current test which is on a 2400 scale. Additionally, the new test removes the sentence completion aspect of the reading comprehension section. Doing this takes away the laborious task of memorizing vocabulary. Even with these changes, the new test is still extremely coachable – and focusing on a few specific areas will yield the greatest results for students looking to boost their scores on the new test.

TABLES AND GRAPHS

On the old test there were few graphs and tables for students to analyze and interpret. The new test has increased their emphasis on this skill, which means that test takers will have to be very sharp and analytical. A couple ways to improve your problem solving ability in this area is to work on analyzing tables and graphs more frequently in math and science classes. Seeing a wider variety of these types of problems and working with a more diverse problem set will allow you to sharpen your ability.

Furthermore, understanding the tricks and areas where the SAT will try to confuse you with the tables is also helpful. The way to do this is to actually get familiar with the types of questions that accompany the tables and graphs. A lot of times the graphs and tables might actually reflect a different data set than the one picture through manipulation and presentation. Similar to the note on the old test, often times figures may not be as they appear. The new test will try to confuse students in this manner as well. Practicing enough SAT problems will help students with identifying and polishing the skill of pattern recognition. This will ensure that they don’t fall prey to the traps the SAT purposely sets.

THE ESSAY

The biggest difference on the new test is the amount of time allotted to write an essay. The student gets double the amount of time (50 minutes) and also has to employ reading comprehension skills as they work with a passage to evaluate an argument. Additionally, the essay is not required by the College Board, but instead mandated by individual schools. All of this represents a significant shift from the current format. However, many of the same principles on crafting a stellar essay still apply.

For instance, the best way to score well on the actual test day is to do a lot of practice prompts. On the new essay, you can’t come in with prepared examples but you can follow a similar model and template for any essay, regardless of the prompt and passage. The key on this essay is to evaluate the author’s argument. To do that, the student should evaluate on the same criteria for any passage, regardless of subject matter. Picking a couple literary devices or other types of criteria to analyze will be extremely helpful to ensure a high essay score.

The new test is definitely different, but many of the old strategies still apply. A couple twists and shifts, and with ample preparation, any student can really excel. Stay tuned for more tips, tricks, and updates on the new 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.

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

Application season at MIT Sloan is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay question. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

There is only one essay question for MIT Sloan so it is critical that applicants make the most of the limited real estate available here.

Essay 1:

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 or fewer)

MIT Sloan’s only essay this year falls into the category of an “accomplishment” essay. However, this essay is a bit more multifaceted than the typical “accomplishment” essay so this is a prompt applicants should read through a few times before diving in.

First thing’s first, make sure you follow the rules of the prompt. Nothing turns the admissions committee off faster than a candidate who does not answer the question as prescribed. Sloan is looking for a RECENT success so avoid examples that are too far in the past no matter how impressive. The subsequent clarifying questions in the prompt should signal the method by which Sloan is looking to hear your response.

Don’t fall into the trap of just telling the admissions committee how the success happened. Breakthrough candidates will show not tell the process behind the identified success. Your goal should be to have the reader feel like a “fly on the wall” in the story of your success. Bring the reader into the moment and your thought process as you introspectively recount the relevant business challenges and situations encountered during this experience.

Also, as you move to wrap this essay up try to quantify your impact as much as possible. For some accomplishments it will be easier than others, but a school like Sloan is looking for real impact so don’t shy away from the numbers here if possible. Why a specific accomplishment is relevant to you may not be immediately clear to the reader so make sure to highlight the significance of your recent success.

Finally, your essay topic along with all other elements of your application package should be aligned with the core values of the Sloan MBA. Review these tenets before you finalize your topic and make sure you are crafting your response to this essay with these values in mind.

These are just a few thoughts on the essay from MIT. Hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Sloan’s deadlines and essays, check out another post here.

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

College classes are similar to high school classes in many ways, but a few key differences—the amount of control you have over your own education, the lack of close supervision by instructors, the and the academic intensity of your in-class hours—can make the transition from high school to college difficult for some students.

It took me a full semester to become comfortable with college classes. Here’s what I had to learn:

1. Don’t take too many college classes. It doesn’t matter how well you did with your 8am-3pm schedule in high school; taking seven hours of classes every weekday in college (without a very, very good idea of what you’re getting yourself into) is a whole different story. Check your syllabi, or ask former students, how much of a time commitment (homework included) each of your intended classes demands, and plan from there.

2. Do your homework. Even if it only counts for three percent of your grade, it probably won’t count for as much of your final grade as it did in high school. But every little point helps—and, more importantly, you’ll be able to use it to check how well you understand the material you went over in class.

3.Show up for every class, even if they are optional. Getting notes from someone else rarely makes up for actually attending your lectures, and you’ll be more attentive to the lecture material if you hear it in person than if you webcast or podcast it afterwards.

4. Show up for every discussion/lab, even if it is optional—especially in larger classes. These are often your only opportunities to work closely with your TA’s, who may have even more control over your final grade than your professor does. In addition, they are also better places to ask questions than large lecture halls are, since you’ll get more personal attention from your instructor when you’re in a smaller class.

5. Ask for help when you need it. There is much less hand-holding in college than there is in high school; if you’re struggling, it’s largely on you to catch yourself back up on the material and to search out study resources. Most professors and TA’s are more than willing to help an eager student, and your college can offer further support in the form of tutoring, academic counseling, etc.

6. Make friends with your classmates. Don’t wait until the night before your final to realize you need a copy of someone else’s notes.

7. Make friends with your TA’s. They are often more accessible and approachable than your professors, and can answer almost all of your questions about the material, the class, and the professor. Since they’re probably the ones grading your work, they’re also your best resource for advice on improving your grades.

8. Actually like what you’re studying. You are given much more freedom to choose your own subjects in college than in high school; take advantage of that! It will be much easier to focus, avoid procrastination, and understand the material if you’re interested in your classes.

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

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

If you listened to any hip hop themed radio today, the day of the Straight Outta Compton movie premiere, you may have heard interviews with Dr. Dre. You almost certainly heard interviews with Ice Cube. And depending on how old school the station is there’s even a chance you heard from DJ Yella or MC Ren.

But on the radio this morning – just like on your GMAT exam – there was no Eazy-E. Logistically that’s because – as the Bone Thugs & Harmony classic “Tha Crossroads” commemorated – Eazy passed away about 20 years ago. But in GMAT strategy form, Eazy’s absence speaks even louder than his vocals on his NWA and solo tracks. “No Eazy-E” should be a mantra at the top of your mind when you take the GMAT, because on Data Sufficiency questions, choice E – the statements together are not sufficient to solve the problem – will not be given to you all that easily (Data Sufficiency “E” answers, like the Boyz in the Hood, are always hard).

Think about what answer choice E really means: it means “this problem cannot be solved.” But all too often, examinees choose the “Eazy-E,” meaning they pick E when “I can’t do it.” And there’s a big chasm. “It cannot be solved” means you’ve exhausted the options and you’re maybe one piece of information (“I just can’t get rid of that variable”) or one exception to the rule (“but if x is a fraction between 0 and 1…”) that stands as an obstacle to directly answering the question. Very rarely on problems that are above average difficulty is the lack of sufficiency a wide gap, meaning that if E seems easy, you’re probably missing an application of the given information that would make one or both of the statements sufficient. The GMAT just doesn’t have an incentive to reward you for shrugging your shoulders and saying “I can’t do it;” it does, however, have an incentive to reward those people who can conclusively prove that seemingly insufficient information can actually be packaged to solve the problem (what looks like E is actually A, B, C, or D) and those people who can look at seemingly sufficient information and prove why it’s not actually quite enough to solve it (the “clever” E).

So as a general rule, you should always be skeptical of Eazy-E.

Consider this example:

A shelf contains only Eazy-E solo albums and NWA group albums, either on CD or on cassette tape. How many albums are on the shelf?

(1) 2/3 of the albums are on CD and 1/4 of the albums are Eazy-E solo albums.

(2) Fewer than 30 albums are NWA group albums and more than 10 albums are on cassette tape.

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

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

(C) Both statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are sufficient to answer the question asked; but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient

(D) EACH statement ALONE is sufficient to answer the question asked

(E) Statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient to answer the question asked, and additional data specific to the problem are needed

Statistically on this problem (the live Veritas Prep practice test version uses hardcover and paperback books of fiction or nonfiction, but hey it’s Straight Outta Compton day so let’s get thematic!), almost 60% of all test-takers take the Eazy-E here, presuming that the wide ranges in statement 2 and the ratios in statement 1 won’t get the job done. But a more astute examinee is skeptical of Eazy-E and knows to put in work! Statement 1 actually tells you more than meets the eye, as it also tells you that:

1/3 of the albums are on cassette tape

3/4 of the albums are NWA albums

The total number of albums must be a multiple of 12, because that number needs to be divisible by 3 and by 4 in order to create the fractions in statement 1

So when you then add statement 2, you know that since there are more than 10 albums total (because at least 11 are cassette alone) so the total number could be 12, 24, 36, 48, etc. And then when you apply the ratios you realize that since the number of NWA albums is less than 30 and that number is 3/4 of the total, the total must be less than 40. So only 12, 24, and 36 are possible. And since the number of cassettes has to be greater than 10, and equate to 1/3 of the total, the total must then be more than 30. So the only plausible number is 36, and the answer is, indeed, C.

Strategically, being wary of Eazy-E tells you where to invest your time. If E seems too easy, that means that you should spend the extra 30-45 seconds seeing if you can get started using the statements in a different way. So learn from hip hop’s first billionaire, Dr. Dre, who split with Eazy long ago and has since seen his business success soar. Avoid Eazy-E and as you drive home from the GMAT test center you can bask in the glow of those famous Ice Cube lyrics, “I gotta say, today was a good day.”

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

College is expensive. Unless you’re a full-scholarship student, you’re paying for college independently or with the help of your family. Textbooks can add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars, study abroad programs demand high fees up front, and even basic living expenses, like groceries, can become a financial drain. Though I’m fortunate to receive a lot of financial aid and scholarship support, I still find myself needing to keep close track of everything I spend in order to stay financially stable. It took me about three years to finally get the hang of it. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Make a habit of checking your finances. Set email alerts, download the mobile apps associated with your accounts, or set a time each week to check your balances. It’s easy to accidentally spend more in a week or a month than you intend to; regularly checking your finances can serve as a reality check each time you go over your budget.

[*]If you receive any financial aid, scholarships, or loans, schedule at least one meeting each year with the financial office at your school. Not understanding your university financial package can be costly. For example, some schools reduce your financial aid package if you win scholarships. At others, low grades can disqualify you for certain types of financial aid. It’s best to learn these things ahead of time than to learn them the hard way.[/list]

[*]Get a job, and try to find one that doesn’t add stress to your life. (Depending on your situation, you may even want to prioritize enjoying your work over a slightly higher paycheck.) It is much, much easier to work more hours, build a good relationship with your workplace, and ultimately make more money, if your work doesn’t feel like a drain on your mood and your energy.[/list]

[*]Learn to cook! It’s cheaper and healthier than eating out, and it’s a valuable life skill. Contrary to popular student opinion, cooking your own dinner doesn’t have to take two hours; my roommate, for instance, taught herself how to cook in freshman year, and has since mastered the art of healthy and delicious ten-minute meals.[/list]

[*]There are much better—and cheaper—cures for boredom and stress than shopping, eating out, exploring bars, and going to the movie theater. I’ve put effort into slowly replacing those habits with trying new recipes at home, exercising, meeting up with friends, visiting the library, or just taking long walks in new parts of town. Both my wallet and my waistline are grateful.[/list]

[*]Be mindful of what you purchase. Remember that you’ll have to eventually sell, toss, or carry everything you buy, and that owning lots of things is especially burdensome if you relocate frequently, which most college students do. Be conscious of the (probably small) size of your dorm room, or of your half of your apartment. If you don’t need it or really love it, you probably shouldn’t buy it.[/list] Looking for ways to get scholarships? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

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

Application season at the Kellogg School of Management is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

With all of your essays for Kellogg, treat your responses holistically and try to paint a complete picture of your candidacy within the school specific suite of essay questions.

Essay 1:

Leadership and teamwork are integral parts of the Kellogg experience. Describe a recent and meaningful time you were a leader. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)

This is a hybrid “leadership” / “teamwork” essay that should come as no surprise coming from Kellogg. In fact this essay is similar to past incarnations at the notoriously teamwork driven program. One nuance to this reputation is that internally Kellogg views itself as a developer of leaders of teams not just team players, so this essay prompt strikes at the core of the mission of the program.

Historically, Kellogg has been as good as any other program at allowing students to tell their story with very specific and detailed essay prompts. Take the opportunity to share your perspective on a leadership story that has a little “bite” to it. Many candidates will share a leadership story and answer the individual questions as posed in the prompt. Breakthrough candidates will put the admissions committee right in the middle of the story via an introspective narrative that details the conflict inherent in any leadership challenge.

Also, a great essay will most definitely include references to people dynamics and how the candidate as a leader was able to evangelize the team. Just because there is not a direct individual question about teamwork in the prompt does not mean this should not be discussed – the first sentence of the prompt should be clue enough of your direction for this essay.

Essay 2:

Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg? (450 words)

This essay is Kellogg’s take on the common “Why MBA” / “Why School X” essay. But with Kellogg you should always expect to go a bit deeper. Kellogg is looking for you to share a bit about your past, present and future and what makes Kellogg such an integral part of your planned journey. Program specifics will be key here so make sure you do your research and identify professional, academic, and social aspects of the program that will be integral to you reaching your development goals.

Breakthrough candidates will be introspective throughout their response to this essay reflecting on how they have reached the point of applying to Kellogg and what the path forward looks like as a Kellogg MBA.

These are just a few thoughts on the new batch of essays from Kellogg, and hopefully they will help you get started. For more thoughts on the essays and deadlines for this year, click here for another post.

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

Today, we look at the relative rate concept of work, rate and time – the parallel of relative speed of distance, speed and time.

But before we do that, we will first look at one fundamental principle of work, rate and time (which has a parallel in distance, speed and time).

Say, there is a straight long track with a red flag at one end. Mr A is standing on the track 100 feet away from the flag and Mr B is standing on the track at a distance 700 feet away from the flag. So they have a distance of 600 feet between them. They start walking towards each other. Where will they meet? Is it necessary that they will meet at 400 feet from the red flag – the mid point of the distance between them? Think about it – say Mr A walks very slowly and Mr B is super fast. Of the 600 feet between them, Mr A will cover very little distance and Mr B will cover most of the distance. So where they meet depends on their rate of walking. They will not necessarily meet at the mid point. When do they meet at the mid point? When their rate of walking is the same. When they both cover equal distance.

Now imagine that you have two pools of water. Pool A has 100 gallons of water in it and the Pool B has 700 gallons. Say, water is being pumped into pool A and water is being pumped out of pool B. When will the two pools have equal water level? Is it necessary that they both have to hit the 400 gallons mark to have equal amount of water? Again, it depends on the rate of work on the two pools. If water is being pumped into pool A very slowly but water is being pumped out of pool B very fast, at some point, they both might have 200 gallons of water in them. They will both have 400 gallons at the same time only when their rate of pumping is the same. This case is exactly like the case above.

Now let’s go on to the question from the GMAT Club tests which tests this understanding and the concept of relative rate of work:

Question: Tanks X and Y contain 500 and 200 gallons of water respectively. If water is being pumped out of tank X at a rate of K gallons per minute and water is being added to tank Y at a rate of M gallons per minute, how many hours will elapse before the two tanks contain equal amounts of water?

(A) 5/(M+K) hours

(B) 6/(M+K) hours

(C) 300/(M+K) hours

(D) 300/(M−K) hours

(E) 60/(M−K) hours

Solution: There are two tanks with different water levels. Note that the rate of pumping is given as K gallons per min and M gallons per min i.e. they are different. So we cannot say that they both will have equal amount of water when they have 350 gallons. They could very well have equal amount of water at 300 gallons or 400 gallons etc. So when one expects that water in both tanks will be at 350 gallon level, one is making a mistake. The two tanks are working for the same time to get their level equal but their rates are different. So the work done is different. Note here that equal level does not imply equal work done. The equal level could be achieved at 300 gallons when work done would be different – 200 gallons removed from tank X and 100 gallons added to tank Y. The equal level could be achieved at 400 gallons when work done would be different again – 100 gallons removed from tank X and 200 gallons added to tank Y.

To achieve the ‘equal level,’ tank Y needs to gain water and tank X needs to lose water. Total 300 gallons (500 gallons – 200 gallons) of work needs to be done. Which tank will do how much depends on their respective rates.

Work to be done together = 300 gallons

Relative rate of work = (K + M) gallons/minute

The rates get added because they are working in opposite directions – one is removing water and the other is adding water. So we get relative rate (which is same as relative speed) by adding the individual rates.

Note here that rate is given in gallons per minute. But the options have hours so we must convert the rate to gallons per hour.

Relative rate of work = (K + M) gallons/minute = (K + M) gallons/(1/60) hour = 60*(K + M) gallons/hour

Time taken to complete the work = 300/60(K+M) hours = 5/(K+M) hours

Answer (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!

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