Learn How to Begin a GMAT Problem by Focusing on Keywords in the Question Stem

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomToday, we will not begin our post as we usually do by introducing the topic we intend to discuss. Instead, we will directly ask you to think about a question. The reason is this – when faced with similar questions on the GMAT without any preface, we often struggle to identify the concept being tested, which is the starting point of our efforts. Our post today focuses on how to observe the keywords in the question stem, and how to know where to go from there.

Take a look at this example Quant question:

The length and width of a rectangle are integer values. What is the area of the smallest such rectangle that can be inscribed in a circle whose radius is also an integer?

(A) 12 
(B) 24 
(C) 36 
(D) 48 
(E) 60

Now here is the problem – the question stem does not give us any numbers! We don’t know any dimensions of the rectangle or the circle, yet the answer choice options are very specific numbers! So how do we begin? The smallest positive integer is 1, so should we start by testing the radius of the circle as 1, and then try to go on from there? And if 1 doesn’t work, then move on to 2, 3, 4… etc?

No – we are not a computer algorithm and on top of that, the GMAT only gives us around 2 minutes to figure out the answer. With this in mind, the question should enough clues to make all all of that trial and error testing unnecessary. So if plugging in numbers isn’t the way to go, how should we start solving this problem?

Now, the moment we read “rectangle inscribed in a circle”, what comes to mind is that a rectangle has 90 degree angles, and hence, the diagonal of the rectangle is the diameter of the circle (an arc that subtends a 90 degree angle at the circumference is a semicircle). The rectangle inside of the circle will look something like this:

 

 

 

 

Now we can see that we have a circle with a diameter (AB) and 90 degree angles subtended in each semicircle (angle AMB and angle ANB).

Essentially then, we have two right triangles (triangle AMB and triangle ANB) that share the hypotenuse AB. Also, it’s important to note that each side of these triangles is an integer – since we know the radius of the circle is an integer, the diameter has to be an integer too. This should make us think of Pythagorean triples!

Whenever all three sides of a right triangle are integers, they will form a Pythagorean triple. Can you have a right triangle with all integer sides such that the length of one side is 1? No. There are no Pythagorean triples with 1 as a side. The smallest Pythagorean triple we know of is 3, 4, 5 (so there can be no right triangle with all integer sides such that the length of one side is 2, either).

We already know Pythagorean triples are the lengths of the sides of right triangles where all sides are integers. What we need to internalize is that ONLY Pythagorean triples are the lengths of sides of right triangles where all sides are integers. You cannot have a right triangle with all integer sides but whose sides are not a Pythagorean triple.

This means that the smallest right triangle with all integer sides is a 3, 4, 5 triangle.

Now note that in the given question, the hypotenuse is the diameter of the circle. We are given that the radius of the circle is an integer, so the diameter will be twice an integer, i.e. an even integer.

So we know the hypotenuse is an even integer, but as we discussed last week, the hypotenuse of a primitive Pythagorean right triangle must be odd. So this triangle must be a non-primitive Pythagorean triple. The smallest such triple will be twice of 3, 4, 5, i.e. the triangle will have sides with lengths 6, 8, 10.

This means the sides of the rectangle must be 6 and 8, while its diagonal must have a length of length 10. The area of the rectangle, then, must be 6*8 = 48. The answer is D.

Finally, at the end of the post we have figured out that this post is a continuation of last week’s post on properties of Pythagorean triples! We hope you enjoyed it!

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

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!

Time Management Tips for the SAT with the Optional Essay

Keep Calm Write FastIf you plan to sign up for the SAT, you probably know that the Essay section of the test is optional. Though you may not be excited about taking the extra time on test day to complete the Essay section, it may be a good idea.

Some colleges will ask for an SAT Essay score, so it’s smart to check the admissions requirements of the colleges you’re interested in before you make this decision. Some students write the SAT essay so they have the score in case it’s needed for a last-minute addition to their college list.

If you decide to take the SAT Essay section, there are a few tips to keep in mind so you can submit the most impressive sample of your writing, especially considering that like every other section of the test, the Essay section is timed. Even if you apply to take the SAT with extended time due to a disability, you’ll need to complete your essay within a limited amount of time, so it’s important that you manage your time wisely.

Create a Writing Schedule for Test Day
The SAT with essay time included lasts for a total of three hours and 50 minutes. You are given exactly 50 minutes to write your essay. Fifty minutes may not seem like enough time to write an essay, but it is if you adhere to a writing schedule.

This writing schedule doesn’t have to be on paper; you can make a mental schedule. You should dedicate five to ten minutes to reading the prompt and making an outline for your essay on scrap paper. Next, spend about 30 to 35 minutes writing your essay. This leaves you with approximately five to ten minutes for proofreading your work. After the timed Essay section begins, look at the clock or your watch to remind yourself that you should be finished making your outline within ten minutes of that time. Before you start to write your essay, glance at your watch and remind yourself that you should be finishing up approximately 35 minutes from that point.

A mental writing schedule can keep you from running short on time and rushing to finish. This is a useful strategy if you’re taking the SAT with extended time, too; you’ll just need to modify this schedule based on whether you’re receiving time and a half or double time to complete the Essay section.

Use Your Outline to Refocus
There are lots of reasons why it’s smart to take the time to make an outline before starting your essay. One of the best reasons to make an outline is that you can use it to refocus yourself if your mind wanders during the writing process. Looking at the organized ideas and details included in your outline can get your mind back on the right track. Also, your outline helps you to avoid forgetting any important points that can be the difference between a high-scoring essay and one that doesn’t represent your true talents.

Follow the Basic Essay Format
When you opt to take the SAT with writing time, you may wonder how to set up your essay. It’s best to use the basic essay format: You’re no doubt already familiar with the format, and it’s a good template for an essay that asks you to evaluate an author’s argument.

The Importance of Writing Practice Essays
The most effective way to remember these tips while completing the SAT Essay section is to practice them ahead of time. When starting your practice essay, check your watch to get an idea of how quickly you must work to read the prompt and finish an outline in ten minutes or less. After practicing a few times, you’ll develop a rhythm for your essay-writing that allows you to adhere to your schedule and finish without hurrying. The time you spend practicing also gives you a chance to become familiar with the topics found in SAT prompts so when you take the SAT with writing time, you aren’t venturing into unfamiliar waters.

At Veritas Prep, we are here to help students like you get the highest possible score on the Essay section of the SAT. We understand how to approach the Essay along with every other section, and our instructors can help you meet or exceed your goals for taking the SAT with essay time. We’ll evaluate your practice essay and provide you with tips on how you can achieve a high score in each of the three areas evaluated by SAT graders. We want you to score 8’s across the board on your SAT essay! Contact us today to get the strategies, guidance, and support you need to master the SAT Essay section.

The Pythagorean Triples Properties You’ll See on the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomToday, let’s discuss a few useful properties of primitive Pythagorean triples. A primitive Pythagorean triple is one in which a, b and c (the length of the two legs and the hypotenuse, respectively) are co-prime. So, for example, (3, 4, 5) is a primitive Pythagorean triple while its multiple, (6, 8, 10), is not.

Now, without further ado, here are the properties of primitive Pythagorean triples that you’ll probably encounter on the GMAT:

I. One of a and b is odd and the other is even.
II. From property I, we can then say that c is odd.
III. Exactly one of a, b is divisible by 3.
IV. Exactly one of a, b is divisible by 4.
V. Exactly one of a, b, c is divisible by 5.

If you keep in mind the first primitive Pythagorean triple that we used as an example (3, 4, 5), it is very easy to remember all these properties.

If we look at some other examples:

(3, 4, 5), (5, 12, 13), (8, 15, 17) (7, 24, 25) (20, 21, 29) (12, 35, 37) (9, 40, 41) (28, 45, 53) (11, 60, 61) (16, 63, 65) (33, 56, 65) (48, 55, 73), etc.

we will see that these properties hold for all primitive Pythagorean triples.

Now, let’s take a look at an example GMAT question which can be easily solved if we know these properties:

The three sides of a triangle have lengths p, q and r, each an integer. Is this triangle a right triangle?

Statement 1: The perimeter of the triangle is an odd integer.
Statement 2: If the triangle’s area is doubled, the result is not an integer.

We know that the three sides of the triangle are all integers. So if the triangle is a right triangle, the three sides will represent a Pythagorean triple. Given that p, q and r are all integers, let’s use the properties of primitive Pythagorean triples to break down each of the statements.

Statement 1: The perimeter of the triangle is an odd integer.

Looking at the properties above, we know that a primitive Pythagorean triple can be represented as:

(Odd, Even, Odd) (The first two are interchangeable.)

Non-primitive triples are made by multiplying each member of the primitive triple by an integer n greater than 1. Depending on whether n is odd or even, the three sides can be represented as:

(Odd*Odd, Even*Odd, Odd*Odd) = (Odd, Even, Odd)
or
(Odd*Even, Even*Even, Odd*Even) = (Even, Even, Even)

However, the perimeter of a right triangle can never be odd because:

Odd + Even + Odd = Even
Even + Even + Even = Even

Hence, the perimeter will be even in all cases. (If the perimeter of the given triangle is odd, we can say for sure that it is not a right triangle.) This statement alone is sufficient.

Statement 2: If the triangle’s area is doubled, the result is not an integer.

If p, q and r are the sides of a right triangle such that r is the hypotenuse (the hypotenuse could actually be either p, q, or r but for the sake of this example, let’s say it’s r), we can say that:

The area of this triangle = (1/2)*p*q
and
Double of area of this triangle = p*q

Double the area of the triangle has to be an integer because we are given that both p and q are integers, but this statement tells us that this is not an integer. In that case, this triangle cannot be a right triangle. If the triangle is not a right triangle, double the area would be the base * the altitude, and the altitude would not be an integer in this case.

This statement alone is sufficient, too. Therefore, our answer is D.

As you can see, understanding the special properties of primitive Pythagorean triples can come in handy on the GMAT – especially in tackling complicated geometry questions.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

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!

The One Business School You Should Never Apply To

08fba0fCreating your target school list is an integral part of setting the appropriate MBA application strategy. Many things go into creating the right strategy. Looking into what location, teaching style, career opportunities, or class size make sense as logical starting points for your school research.

Part of this vetting process involves evaluating your fit for all relevant aspects of your business school criteria. If there are aspects of a school that are important, you should make a decision as early as possible whether this criteria is a deal breaker for you or not.

So you have done your school research and identified your deal breakers and created a target school list that you are happy with. So what is the one school that you should never apply to? Well the answer is the school you would not actually matriculate to! This sounds obvious, but every year applicants make this mistake months before they actually have to deal with the consequences.

This issue manifests when the applicant receives an offer of admission from a school they realize they actually do not want to attend. This is not the same as applying to a safety school. With a safety school, you are applying to a school that you feel you have a high degree of certainty that you will receive admission to. The difference for safety schools is if admitted and without other offers, a candidate would actually be comfortable attending.

Applying to a school you have no desire to actually attend makes no sense and is a waste of time, energy, and mental space. It provides the false security of an option that does not really exist. This is why the upfront process of vetting your schools is so important. If this process is done right, a candidate would never apply to a school that they would not go to. Many candidates once they receive application decisions struggle to deal with the decision to reapply in future years, even with an offer in hand, which is a sign of school selection issues.

Be honest with yourself as early as you can in the process when it comes to school selection, to make your application process and subsequent matriculation decision as straightforward and simple as possible.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

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 articles by him here.

Select Your Section Order on the New GMAT

New SATGood news! Starting July 11, 2017 the GMAT will allow you to select the order in which you take the sections of the test (from a menu of three options). This new “Select Section Order” feature gives you more control over your test-day experience and an opportunity to play to your strengths.

The bad news? Now in addition to the 37 Quant questions, 41 Verbal questions, 12 Integrated Reasoning questions, and Essay, you have one more question you have to answer. But don’t stress – here’s an analysis of how to make this important decision:

THE HEADLINE

Most importantly: statistically, the order of the sections on the GMAT does not matter. GMAC ran a pilot program last year and concluded that reordering the sections of the exam had no impact on scores. So there is no way you can make this decision “wrong” – choosing Quant first vs. Verbal first (or vice versa) doesn’t put you at a disadvantage (or give you an advantage). The only impact that this option will have on your score is a psychological one: which order makes you feel like you’re giving yourself the best shot.

Also hugely important: make sure you have a plan well before test day. Select Section Order has great potential to give you confidence on test day, but you don’t want the added stress of one more “big” decision on test day or even the day before. Make your plan at least a week before test day, take your final practice test(s) in the exact order you’ll use on the real thing, and save your decision-making capacity for test questions. A great option for this is the Veritas Prep practice tests, which are currently the only GMAT practice tests in the industry that let you customize the order of your test like the real exam.

THE ANALYSIS

And now for the ever-important question on everyone’s mind: in what order should I take the sections? Make sure that you recognize that you only have three options:

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal (original order)
  2. Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
  3. Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment

Note that you don’t have the option to split up the AWA and IR sections, and that the AWA/IR block comes either first or last: Quant and Verbal will remain adjacent no matter what order you choose, so you can’t plan yourself a nice “break” in between the two.

Also, recognize that all test-takers are different. As there is no inherent, universal advantage to one order versus the other, your decision isn’t so much “Quant vs. Verbal” but rather “stronger subject vs. not-as-strong subject.” You can fill in the names “Quant” and “Verbal” based on your own personal strengths. For this analysis, we’ll use “Stronger” and “Not as Strong” to refer to your choice between Quant/Verbal, and “AWA/IR” as the third category.

YOU SHOULD TAKE THE AWA LAST

Traditionally, one of the biggest challenges of the GMAT has been related to stamina and fatigue: it’s a long test, and by the end people are worn out. And over the last 5 years, the fast-paced Integrated Reasoning section has also proven a challenge – very few people comfortably finish the IR section, so it’s quite common to be a combination of tired and demoralized heading into the Quant section. Plus, let’s be honest: the IR and AWA scores just don’t matter as much as the Quant/Verbal scores, so if stamina and confidence are potentially limited quantities, you want to use as much of them as possible on the sections that b-schools care about most.

Who should take AWA/IR first?
Non-native speakers for whom the essay will be important. The danger of waiting until all the way at the end of the test to write the essay is that doing so increases the difficulty of writing clearly and coherently: you’ll just be really tired. If you need your AWA to shine and you’re a bit concerned about it as it is, you may want to attack it first.
Not-morning-people with first-thing-in-the-morning test appointments. If you got stuck with a test appointment that’s much earlier than the timeframe when you feel alert and capable, AWA/IR is a good opportunity to spend an hour of extended warmup getting into the day. If you have a later test appointment and still want a warmup, though, you’re better served doing a few practice problems before you head to the test center.

REASONS TO DO YOUR STRONGER SECTION (Q vs. V) FIRST

1) You like a good “warmup” to get started on a project. At work you typically start the day by responding to casual emails or reading industry news, because you know your most productive/creative/impactful work will come after you’ve taken a bit of time to get your head in the game. Playing to your strength first will let you experience early success so that your mind is primed for the tougher section to come.

2) You want to start with a confidence booster. Test-taking is very psychological – for example, studies show that test results are significantly impacted when examinees are prompted beforehand with reasons that they should perform well or poorly. Getting started with a section that reminds you that “you’re good at this!” is a great way to prime your mind for success and confidence.

3) You need your stronger section to carry your overall score. Those with specific score targets often find that the easiest way to hit them is to max out on their better score, gaining as many points as possible there and then hoping to scrounge up enough on the other section to hit that overall threshold. Doing your strength first may help you hit it while you’re fresh and gather up all those points before you get worn down by other sections. (Be careful, though: elite schools tend to prefer balanced scores to imbalanced scores, so make sure you consider that.)

REASONS TO DO YOUR WEAKER SECTION (Q vs. V) FIRST

1) You’re a fast starter. If like to hit the ground running on projects or workdays, you may want to deal with your biggest challenge first while you’re freshest and before fatigue sets in.

2) You hate having stress looming on the horizon. Similarly, if you’re the type who always did your homework immediately after school and always pays your bills the day you get them, there mere presence of the challenge waiting you could add stress through the earlier sections. Why not confront it immediately and get it over with?

3) Your test appointment is late in the day. If you’ve been waiting all day to get the test started, you’ve likely been anxious knowing that you have a major event in front of you. Warm up with some easier problems and review in the hour before the test and attack it quickly.

4) You’re retaking the test to specifically improve that section. In some cases, students are told that they can get off the waitlist or will only be considered if they get a particular section score to a certain threshold. If that’s you, turn that isolated section into a 75-minute test followed by a couple hours of formality, instead of forcing yourself to wait for the important part.

5) You crammed for it. We’ve all been there: your biology midterm is at 11am but you have to go to a history class from 9-10:30, and all the while you’re sitting there worried that you’re losing the information you memorized last night. If you’re worried about remembering certain formulas, rules, or strategies, you might as well use them immediately before you get distracted. Note: this does not mean you should cram for the GMAT! But if you did, you may want to apply that short-term memory as quickly as possible.

CAN’T DECIDE? THE CASE FOR DOING VERBAL FIRST

If the above reasons leave you conflicted, Veritas Prep recommends doing the Verbal section first. The skills required on the Verbal section are largely about focus – noting precision in wording, staying engaged in bland reading passages, switching between a variety of different topics – and focus is something that naturally fades over the course of the test. The ability to take the Verbal section when you’re most alert and able to concentrate is a terrific luxury.
Ultimately it’s best that you choose the order that makes you personally feel most confident, but if you can’t decide, most experts report that they would personally choose Verbal first.

SUMMARY

Because, statistically, the order of the sections doesn’t really matter, the only thing that matters with Select Section Order is doing what makes you feel most confident and comfortable. So recognize that you cannot make a bad decision! What’s important is that you don’t let this decision add stress or fatigue to your test day. Make your decision at least 2 practice tests before the real thing, considering the advice above, and then don’t look back. The section selection option is a great way to ensure that your test experience feels as comfortable as possible, so, whatever you choose, believe in your decision and then go conquer the GMAT.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? Prepare for the exam with a computer-adaptive Veritas Prep practice test – the only test in the industry that allows you to practice section selection like the real exam! And as always, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter for the latest in test prep and MBA admissions news.

Taking Advantage of Early Decision and Admission to College

stopwatch-620Most college-bound high school students envision themselves sending out college applications in December or January of their senior year. Furthermore, they expect to hear back from colleges in the spring. This is the typical path for lots of high school seniors, but there are other options. For example, some students opt for early admission to college and send an application to one school long before the regular admission period begins. They do this in order to receive an early decision from that school.

Learn more about the specifics of early decision admission and how students can benefit from choosing this path to college.

What Is Early Decision in the College Admissions Process?
A student who wants an early decision on their application usually submits it to a college in November. College officials evaluate the student’s application, essay, SAT scores, and other documents just as they would during the regular admission period. Generally, a student who participates in early decision admission receives notification from the college in December. With this option, the application process starts and ends well before the regular admission period ever begins.

The Advantages of Early Decision Admission
One of the biggest advantages of the early decision option is that students don’t have to wait around for several months to hear back from their first choice. If they are accepted, it reduces their stress level and allows them to focus on second-semester coursework. In addition, getting accepted via early decision allows students to avoid sending out applications to several schools. If students are not accepted to their first choice, they have time to make plans to apply to alternate schools. At Veritas Prep, our expert consultants can partner with students during the college admissions process. We have first-hand knowledge of what college admissions officials are looking for when evaluating applications, essays, transcripts, and other student documents.

Why Do Some Students Take the Early Decision Option?
Generally, students who are certain of where they want to go to school are the ones who take advantage of the early decision option. They’ve conducted thorough online research on colleges and are set on attending one specific school. Perhaps they like what the school’s science department has to offer its students. Or maybe they want to take advantage of the courses available to students studying business.

A student who applies for an early decision sometimes has a better chance of being accepted than if they were to apply during regular admission, when large numbers of students submit their applications. Students with solid academic records and impressive standardized test scores are showing a high level of ambition and determination by applying to a college for an early decision. College officials appreciate this kind of dedication in a potential student.

The Differences Between Early Decision and Early Action
There are some important things students must remember as they send an early application out to a college. Early admission is available in a couple of ways. The one discussed above is early decision. Colleges refer to early decision as binding: in other words, a student who is accepted to a college via early decision must attend that college.

Early action is the second path a student can take toward early admission. College officials consider early action to be non-binding. Once officials notify a student of acceptance, they give the individual time to either commit or move on to consider other schools. When it comes to early decision, colleges expect a student who receives an acceptance letter to send them a deposit long before the customary date of May 1. Alternatively, students who are accepted via early action have some time to reconsider whether they want to attend that college. Early action requires a student to provide a college with a definitive answer by May 1.

We help students in many different ways as they head toward college. Our professional tutors share test-taking strategies with students who want to put their best foot forward on the SAT or ACT. We review practice test results with students so they can focus on the subjects that need the most improvement. Whether you want tips to prep for an upcoming standardized test or college admissions guidance, we have the resources to help. Contact Veritas Prep today!

Using “Few” vs. “A Few” vs. “Quite a Few” in a GMAT Verbal Question

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomOn quite a few occasions, we at Veritas Prep find ourselves explaining the difference between the terms “few” and “a few” – a subtle, but very important distinction which has, on occasion, completely changed the meaning of a sentence. Hence, we realized that a post on this difference is warranted.

“Few”, when used without a preceding “a”, means “very few” or “none at all”. “Few” is a negative, which puts the quantity of what you are describing near zero.

On the other hand, “a few” is used to indicate “not a large number”. “A few” also indicates a small approximate number, but it is positive nonetheless.

The difference between the two is subtle, yet there are instances where the two can mean completely opposite things. For example, “I have a few friends” is the same as saying “I have some friends”. “I have few friends”, however, implies that I have only very few friends (as opposed to many). It can also imply that I don’t feel very well about it, and I wish I had more friends.

Also, note that there is a very common expression, “quite a few”, which looks like it could mean “rather few” or “very few”, but it does not. It actually means the exact opposite: “a large or significant number” or “many”. So saying, “I have quite a few friends,” is the same as saying “I have quite a lot of friends”.

Here are a few other simple examples:

  • A few people think that red wine is healthy.
    • This implies some people think that red wine is healthy.
  • Few people think that red wine is healthy.
    • This implies only very few people, a very small number, think that red wine is healthy; most think that it is not.
  • Quite a few people think that red wine is healthy.
    • This implies many people, a large number, think that red wine is healthy.

Let’s examine an official Critical Reasoning question in which confusion among these terms could lead to an incorrect answer:

Until now, only injectable vaccines against influenza have been available. They have been primarily used by older adults who are at risk for complications from influenza. A new vaccine administered in a nasal spray form has proven effective in preventing influenza in children. Since children are significantly more likely than adults to contract and spread influenza, making the new vaccine widely available for children will greatly reduce the spread of influenza across the population. 

Which of the following, if true, most strengthens the argument?

(A) If a person receives both the nasal spray and the injectable vaccine, they do not interfere with each other. 
(B) The new vaccine uses the same mechanism to ward off influenza as injectable vaccines do. 
(C) Government subsidies have kept the injectable vaccines affordable for adults. 
(D) Of the older adults who contract influenza, relatively few contract it from children with influenza. 
(E) Many parents would be more inclined to have their children vaccinated against influenza if it did not involve an injection. 

Let’s break down the argument of this passage first. We are given following premises:

  • Until now, only injections of the influenza vaccine were available.
  • These injections were primarily used by older adults.
  • Now nasal sprays are available that prevent influenza in children.
  • Children are more likely to contract and spread influenza.
  • Conclusion: If nasal sprays are made available for children, it will greatly reduce the spread of influenza across the population.

Does something come to mind when you read this conclusion? What initially came to my mind was that if children are most likely to contract and spread influenza, they should have just been given the injections and that would have prevented the spread of disease across the population. Why is it that the availability of a nasal spray will prevent the spread of influenza but injections have not been able to do this?

We need to strengthen the argument, so we should focus on our conclusion and find out what will strengthen it the most. Let’s go through each of the answer choices:

(A) If a person receives both the nasal spray and the injectable vaccine, they do not interfere with each other.

If a person has already been given an injection, he or she is immune to influenza – taking the nasal spray on top of this will not have any impact on his or her immunity. This option is irrelevant to the argument, thus A cannot be our answer.

(B) The new vaccine uses the same mechanism to ward off influenza as injectable vaccines do.

This answer choice only says that the nasal sprays work in the same way the injections do. We are not told exactly why injections could not prevent the spread of influenza while the nasal spray will, so this option is also not correct.

(C) Government subsidies have kept the injectable vaccines affordable for adults.

This option tells us that the subsidies have kept injections affordable for all older adults, but it doesn’t say anything about the cost of the nasal spray. If, instead, this option stated, “Injections are very expensive but nasal spray is a cheap alternative”, it might have made a stronger contender, however we do not know whether cost is a factor that parents consider at all when getting their children vaccinate (to make this option the correct answer, we might even have to add something like, “Parents are not willing to get their kids immunized if the vaccine is very expensive”). As is, however, this answer choice is not correct.

(D) Of the older adults who contract influenza, relatively few contract it from children with influenza.

Here is the trick – many test takers feel that this option is like an assumption, and hence, it certainly strengthens the conclusion. “Few” is assumed to be “some”, so it seems to them that this option is saying, “Some older adults do contract influenza from children”. It certainly seems to be an assumption, since that is how the spread of influenza will reduce across the population of older adults.

We know, however, that “few” actually means “hardly any” or “near zero”. If few (near zero) older adults catch flu from children, it doesn’t strengthen the conclusion. If anything, it has the opposite effect since the older adults will be unaffected, and hence, it is unlikely that the spread of influenza will reduce across the population. Because of this, option D is not correct.

(E) Many parents would be more inclined to have their children vaccinated against influenza if it did not involve an injection.

Now this is what we are looking for – a reason why parents don’t give influenza shots to their kids but will be willing to give them nasal sprays. Parents don’t like to give shots to their kids (could be due pain associated with a shot or whatever, the reason why doesn’t really matter here), but now that a nasal spray version of the vaccine is available, they will be more inclined to get their kids vaccinated. This will probably help prevent the spread of influenza across the population. The correct answer, therefore, is E.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

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!

Understanding College Selectivity

AdmissionA college-bound high school student who goes online to research various schools is likely to encounter a page featuring a list of colleges ranked by the selectivity of their admissions process. A student who scans this list may see several colleges that they plan to apply to.

Naturally, many high school students wonder about selective college admissions and what qualifies a college as selective. Furthermore, they want to know the advantages of getting into a highly selective college. Learn more about the details of college selectivity rankings and what makes one school more selective than another.

What Is College Selectivity?
Some colleges are more selective than others when it comes to inviting applicants to join their next class of freshmen. Each college on a list of schools is evaluated for selectivity using a set of criteria. These criteria include the average standardized test scores, class rank, and average GPA of students accepted as freshmen into a college. As an example, at college X, the average SAT score for freshmen is 1800 (verbal and math), while the average SAT score for freshmen at college Y is 1200. Considering this data, it would stand to reason that school X has more selective college admissions than school Y. Colleges that have the most selective college admissions practices are the ones that only accept students with highly impressive academic records.

Advantages of Attending a College with Highly Selective Admissions
One advantage of attending a college that is highly selective is that students are likely to have access to more resources. Students use state-of-the-art laboratories, libraries, and technology because the school invests in the success of its students. Also, highly selective schools usually have a better faculty-to-student ratio, so a student is able to get individual attention when needed.

Often, students at highly selective schools have the chance to study abroad, participate in research projects, and take advantage of valuable internship opportunities. Many highly selective colleges offer excellent financial aid deals to students. Not surprisingly, a student who attends a highly selective college is studying alongside other students who are just as dedicated to performing at their best. This can motivate an already ambitious student to strive for even more academic accomplishments. Also, fellow students form a network that can serve them as they are establishing a career after graduation.

What Steps Can a Student Take to Get In?
A high school student looking at a list of college selectivity rankings may decide that they want to go to a school at the top of the list. There are many things that students can do to improve their chances of being accepted into a highly selective college. For one, a student can achieve an impressive score on the SAT. Our SAT tutors at Veritas Prep are experts at preparing students to achieve their best on this challenging exam. We hire tutors who scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT. Our tutors convey strategies and tips to students that they can use to master each section of the test. We go over practice tests with students and guide them on which skills to improve.

Another thing a student can do to get into a highly selective college is to make it a priority to perform well all through high school. This means completing extra assignments, taking additional courses, and dedicating several hours a week to study. Academic excellence must be a priority for a high school student who wants to get into a highly selective college.

Our professional college admissions consultants provide assistance to students as they navigate their way toward acceptance into a preferred school. Our consultants understand what college officials are looking for when choosing their next class of freshmen. Along with test prep, we evaluate high school transcripts, advise students on extracurricular activities, and help them in filling out college applications. We even have a College Chanculator that gives students an idea of the likelihood of being accepted into a particular college. The answer given by our College Chanculator is based on some of the same criteria used by highly selective colleges. Those criteria include a student’s GPA, test scores, and class rank. Contact Veritas Prep today to learn more about our varied selection of services.

How to Quickly Interpret Ranges of Variables in GMAT Questions

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomSometimes a GMAT Quant question will give us multiple ranges of values that apply to a single variable, and when this happens it can really take us for a ride. Evaluating these ranges to arrive at deductions can extremely confusing, so today we will look at some strategies for how to deal with such problems.

To start off, let’s take a look at an example problem:

If it is true that z < 8 and 2z > -4, which of the following must be true?

(A) -8 < z < 4
(B) z > 2
(C) z > -8
(D) z < 4
(E) None of the above

Given that z < 8 and 2z > -4, we know that z > -2. This means -2 < z < 8. z must lie within that range, hence z can take values such as -1, 0, 5, 7.4, etc.

Now, which of the given answer choices would hold true for ALL such values? Let’s examine each option and see:

(A) -8 < z < 4
We know that z may be more than 4, so this range does not hold true for all possible values of z.

(B) z > 2
We know that z may be less than 2, so this also does not hold true for all possible values of z.

(C) z > -8
No matter what value z will take, it will always be more than -8. This range holds true for all values of z.

(D) z < 4
We know that z may be greater than 4, so this does not hold for all possible values of z.

Our answer is C.

To understand this concept more clearly, let’s use a real life example:

We know that Anna’s weight is more than 120 pounds but less than 130 pounds. Which of the following is definitely true about her weight?

(A) Her weight is 125 pounds.
(B) Her weight is more than 124 pounds.
(C) Her weight is less than 127 pounds.
(D) Her weight is more than 110 pounds.

Can we say that her weight is 125 pounds? No – we just know that it is more than 120 but less than 130. It could be anything in this range, such as 122, 125, 127.5, etc.

Can we say that her weight is more than 124 pounds? This may be true, but it might not be true. Knowing our given range, her weight could very well be 121 pounds, instead.

Can we say her weight is less than 127 pounds? Again, this might not necessarily be true. Her weight could be 128 pounds.

Now, can we say that her weight is more than 110 pounds? Yes – since we know Anna’s weight is between 120 and 130 pounds, it must be more than 110 pounds.

This question uses the same concept as the first question! If you look at that question again, it will hopefully make much more sense. Now try solving this example problem:

If 1/55 < x < 1/22 and 1/33 < x < 1/11, then which of the following could be the value of x?

(i) 1/54
(ii) 1/23
(iii) 1/12

(A) Only (i)
(B) Only (ii)
(C) (i) and (ii)
(D) (ii) and (iii)
(E) (i), (ii) and (iii)

In this problem, we are given two ranges of x. We know that 1/55 < x < 1/22 and 1/33 < x < 1/11, so x is greater than 1/55 AND it is greater than 1/33. Since 1/33 is greater than 1/55 (the smaller the denominator, the larger the number), we just need to know that x will be greater than 1/33.

We are also given that x is less than 1/22 AND it is less than 1/11. Since 1/22 is less than 1/11, we really just need to know that x is less than 1/22.

Hence, the range for x should be 1/33 < x < 1/22. x could take all values that lie within this range, such as 1/32, 1/31, 1/24, 1/23, etc.

Looking at the answer choices, we can see that 1/54 and 1/12 (i and iii) are both out of this range. Therefore, our answer is B.

If we go back to our real life example, this is what the question would look like now:

We know that Anna’s weight is more than 110 pounds but less than 130 pounds. We also know that her weight is more than 115 pounds but less than 140 pounds. Which of the following is definitely true about her weight?

(A) Her weight is 112 pounds.
(B) Her weight is 124 pounds.
(C) Her weight is 135 pounds.

We are given that Anna’s weight is more than 110 pounds and also more than 115 pounds. Since 115 is more than 110, we just need to know that her weight is more than 115 pounds. We are also given that Anna’s weight is less than 130 pounds and also less than 140 pounds. Since 130 is less than 140, we just need to know that her weight is less than 130 pounds.

Now we have the following range: 115 pounds < Anna’s weight < 130 pounds. Only answer choice B lies within this range, so that is our answer.

We hope you see that evaluating ranges of numbers on GMAT questions is not difficult when we consider them in terms of a real life example. The same logic that we use in the simple weight problem is also applicable when algebraic data is given.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

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!

Average Princeton SAT Scores

Princeton UniversityHigh school students who dream of earning a degree from Princeton University have a lot of steps to take in order to make that dream into reality. Students applying to Princeton must meet a variety of academic requirements. One of those requirements is a relatively high score on the SAT. Learn about average SAT scores for Princeton students. In addition, find out how high school students can achieve their best score on this important exam.

The Average SAT Score at Princeton
When looking at students accepted to Princeton, average SAT scores range around 2250 for the old version of the SAT (the average score for the new version of the SAT will probably be around 1520 – the school has yet to disclose this). This score places a student in the 99th percentile of test-takers. Again, this score is based on the scoring system for the current SAT – the highest possible score that a student can earn on the current version of the SAT is 1600.

How to Achieve an Impressive SAT Score
When it comes to gaining admission to Princeton, SAT scores can carry weight with admissions officers. While there’s no official cutoff, a strong score can do nothing but help a strong application overall. Fortunately, there are several things students can do to prep for the test and earn an impressive score. One of the most valuable resources a student has is a practice test. A student can pinpoint which subjects they need to work on by examining the results of a practice test. This is an effective way for students to achieve the score they need to feel confident about applying to Princeton. Average SAT scores for Princeton students are high but may be achieved with persistent, focused study. At Veritas Prep, we offer students both online and in-person study options to help them prepare for the SAT. We recognize the level of study necessary for students who want to apply to Princeton: SAT scores can play a critical part in the final decision of admissions officers, after all. Our prep courses provide students with test-taking tips and strategies they can use to simplify questions and showcase their strengths in every subject on the SAT.

What Other Factors Are Considered by Admissions Officers at Princeton?
Certainly, an SAT score of 2250 or higher is a plus on any student’s application to Princeton. But a student’s SAT score is just one of many things considered by admissions officers. They also look at a student’s grades in high school as well as the types of classes taken by the individual. Did a student take advanced courses throughout high school? If so, this demonstrates a student’s intellectual curiosity and willingness to push their skills to the limit. A student’s application essay is another element that carries a lot of weight with admissions officers. In fact, a student’s essay gives officials insight into the person’s character and motivations. It allows admissions officers a look at the person behind the test scores and transcripts. Extracurricular activities and recommendation letters also play a part in the evaluation process. Princeton admissions officers are looking to fill all of the spots in a freshman class with students who are most likely to strive for great success at the school.

For students who want to go to Princeton, SAT requirements can seem daunting. Naturally, ambitious students want to do all they can to live up to the high academic standards set by the officials at Princeton. SAT subject tests are also a consideration for high school students who want to apply to this prestigious university. Admissions officers at Princeton recommend that applicants take two SAT subject tests. Students who want assistance preparing for the SAT as well as the SAT subject tests can get the help they need from our talented team of instructors at Veritas Prep. Each of our instructors scored in the top one percent of individuals taking the SAT. This means that high school students who work with our professional instructors are learning from the best! Along with solid academic assistance, our instructors are experts at supplying students with the support and encouragement they need to succeed. Contact Veritas Prep today and let us help you prepare for and master the SAT.

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Ignore the Diagram in That GMAT Geometry Question!

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomIf you follow the Veritas Prep blog, you have probably heard us talk about the importance of diagrams in many GMAT Quant questions  – coordinate geometry, races, time-speed-distance problems, sets, etc. We even suggest you to make diagrams when they are not given on such questions.

But sometimes, the GMAT Testmakers give such diagrams that we wish we were not given the diagram at all. In fact, the addition of a diagram – something that often simplifies our questions – can take the difficulty of the question to a whole new level. By now you are probably thinking that I am surely exaggerating, so I will proceed with an example.

Try to figure this out: when the figure given below is cut along the solid lines, folded along the dashed lines, and then taped along the solid lines, the result is a model of a geometric solid.

Now, can you use your imagination and figure out what kind of a geometric solid you will get in this case? Don’t go ahead just yet – first, give it a shot for a few minutes:

To be honest, I have given it a try and it is certainly not easy. I will know for sure only when I actually carry out the aforementioned steps – cut the paper along the solid lines, fold along the dashed lines and then tape up along the solid lines. Without carrying out the steps I am not sure exactly what kind of a figure I will get.

So the test maker comes to our rescue here. Here is the complete question:

When the figure above is cut along the solid lines, folded along the dashed lines, and taped along the solid lines, the result is a model of a geometric solid. This geometric solid consists of two pyramids each with a square base that they share. What is the sum of number of edges and number of faces of this geometric solid?

(A) 10
(B) 18
(C) 20
(D) 24
(E) 25

The Testmaker specifies what kind of a figure we get – two pyramids, each with a square base that they share. Figuring this out in one minute without an actual paper and scissor at hand would need extraordinary skill. Many test-takers spend precious minutes trying to make sense of the given diagram, but in problems like this, it should be completely ignored because we already know what it will look like – two pyramids with a common square base.

This, we understand! We know what a pyramid looks like – triangular faces converge to a single point at the top with a polygon (often a square) base. We need two pyramids joined together at the base.

This is what the solid will look like:

Just the 4 triangular faces of each of the two pyramids (8 triangles total) will be visible.  Since they will share the square base, the base will not be visible. Hence, the figure will have 8 faces.

Now let’s see how many edges there will be: to make the top pyramid, four triangular faces join to give four edges. To make the bottom pyramid, another four triangular faces join to give four more edges. The two pyramids join on the square base to give yet another four edges.

So all in all, we have 4 + 4 + 4 = 12 edges

When we sum up the faces and edges, we get 8 + 12 = 20

The question is much more manageable now. All we had to do was ignore the diagram given to us!

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

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!

Understanding the Changes to the U.S. Visa Process

SAT/ACTThe United States H-1B visa program is changing again. The much-challenged program that has aimed to bring skilled foreign workers to the U.S. continues to be under pressure.

Of most critical importance to the world of MBA admissions is how this affects the ability for international students to secure employment post-graduation. Many international MBA applicants rely on the H-1B visa to offer them a chance to purse their dreams of working in the U.S. Without this visa, the viability of a U.S. MBA degree lessens for these international applicants.

Not surprisingly with every regime change in Washington, policy and legislation can be impacted. The new administration appears to be focusing on prioritizing jobs for Americans and this obviously puts the H-1B visa program in direct conflict. Although most of the minor changes and announcements are more cosmetic in nature, coming legislation is expected that will make it even more difficult to secure these work visas.

Major MBA employers like Microsoft, Facebook, IBM who also happen to be common recipients of the H-1B visas have prepared for the impending changes. Although, those with computer science and engineering background tend to be the largest recipients of these visas, MBAs also rely on them as well in great numbers. The above employers, and those in similar industries to tech, have already started to move hiring away from low level, cheaper visa recipients to more expensive, higher educated talent.

Even in the face of this changing focus by employers, the H-1B visa remains more difficult than ever to secure. With impending legislation expected to surface soon, the process will only become more difficult.

MBA applicants and students alike should evaluate this news and begin to take their future career plans into consideration. At this stage, this news should not ring any major alarms, as not much has materially changed as of yet, but international students and applicants who have plans to work in the U.S. should factor in the impact legislation could have on future career goals.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

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 articles by him here.

What to Expect from Possible ACT Essay Prompts

SAT WorryToday, many students choose to write the optional ACT essay. Some write it because a Writing section score is required by the colleges they are applying to. Others write it because they excel in essay-writing and want to showcase their skills to college admissions officials. If you plan to write the essay, you’ll want to become familiar with the types of writing prompts given on this exam.

The Different Types of ACT Essay Prompts
Each essay prompt on the ACT concerns a complex issue. For instance, one sample prompt released by the ACT concerns individual freedom and public health. Other writing prompts may deal with technology, the media, education, the arts, and other issues. Even if you don’t have a great deal of knowledge about the topic in the essay prompt, you can still write an essay that is organized, logical, and convincing. In fact, all of the information you need to complete the writing task is given to you in the prompt.

Your Task on the Essay
After reading the essay prompt, you’re given three perspectives on the issue. Your task is to develop your own perspective, then use evidence and examples to support it. Furthermore, you’re asked to analyze how your perspective is similar to or different from at least one of the given perspectives. Think about the possible counterarguments to your perspective and address them.

The individuals who grade your essay won’t be looking at whether you agreed or disagreed with the given perspectives: In fact, that part is irrelevant. Instead, they’ll be evaluating your essay based on its organization, use of supporting evidence, idea development, and language use. College admissions officials want to see a sample of your writing to find out if you can express your ideas in a coherent way. Many colleges will look at your ACT English, Reading, and Writing scores to get a full picture of your ability to interpret and communicate ideas.

Preparing for the Essay
The best way to prep for the essay on the ACT is to practice your writing skills. This includes working on organizing your ideas in the form of an outline before beginning your essay. Also, reading online newspaper and magazine articles gives you practice developing perspectives on current issues. You have only 40 minutes to write the ACT essay, so it’s a good idea to time your practice essays so you can establish a writing speed that doesn’t make you feel rushed. The professional ACT instructors at Veritas Prep have been where you are right now: They’ve prepared for and taken the ACT, including the essay. More importantly, each of our instructors earned a score on the ACT landing them in the 99th percentile. So when you sign up with Veritas Prep, you’ll be studying with tutors who have excellent teaching skills and impressive experience with the test.

Tips for Writing the Essay
The ACT essay is given on paper, so you’ll have space to jot down an outline and organize your thoughts. You’ll probably want to start writing your essay right away, but creating an outline is an effective strategy if you want to end up with a high score. Take the time to think about your perspective on the issue and make sure you have plenty of evidence to support it. Try to leave yourself with a few minutes at the end of the writing test so you can proofread and make small changes if necessary.

The instructors at Veritas Prep have the skills and knowledge to prepare you for the Writing section on the ACT along with the rest of the exam. We are familiar with the different types of ACT essay prompts and can guide you on the best approaches to them. Our strategies can help you to create an essay that fulfills all of the requirements necessary to achieve the highest score possible. We offer online courses that are convenient for high school students on the go, and we also have in-person ACT prep courses if you prefer that type of learning environment. Look at our FAQ page to find more information about our tutoring services, or give us a call or email to let us know how we can help you conquer the ACT essay!

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: The 3-Step Method to Solving Complex GMAT Algebra Problems

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomIf you have been practicing GMAT questions for a while, you will realize that not every question can be solved using pure algebra, especially at higher levels. There will be questions that will require logic and quite a bit of thinking on your part.  These questions tend to throw test-takers off – students often complain, “Where do I start from? Thinking through the question takes too much time!” Unfortunately, there is no getting away from such questions.

Today, let’s see how to handle such questions step-by-step by looking at an example problem:

N and M are each 3-digit integers. Each of the numbers 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, and 8 is a digit of either N or M. What is the smallest possible positive difference between N and M?

(A) 29
(B) 49
(C) 58
(D) 113
(E) 131

This is not a simple algebra question, where we are asked to make equations and solve them.

We are given 6 digits: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8. Each digit needs to be used to form two 3-digit numbers. This means that we will use each of the digits only once and in only one of the numbers.

We also need to minimize the difference between the two numbers so they are as close as possible to each other. Since the numbers cannot share any digits, they obviously cannot be equal, and hence, the smaller number needs to be as large as possible and the greater number needs to be as small as possible for the numbers to be close to each other.

Think of the numbers  of a number line. You need to reduce the difference between them. Then, under the given constraints, push the smaller number to the right on the number line and the greater number to the left to bring them as close as possible to each other.

STEP 1:
The first digit (hundreds digit) of both numbers should be consecutive integers – i.e. the difference between 1** and 2** can be made much less than the difference between 1** and 3** (the difference between the latter will certainly be more than 100).

We get lots of options for hundreds digits: (1** and 2**) or (2** and 3**) or (6** and 7**) or (7** and 8**). All of these options could satisfy our purpose.

STEP 2:
Now let’s think about what the next digit (the tens digit) should be. To minimize the difference between the numbers, the tens digit of the greater number should be as small as possible (1, if possible) and the tens digit of the smaller number should be as large as possible (8, if possible). So let’s not use 1 or 8 in the hundreds places and reserve them for the tens places instead, since we have lots of other options (which are equivalent) for the hundreds places. Now what are the options?

Let’s try to make a pair of numbers in the form of 2** and 3**. We need to make the 2** number as large as possible and make the 3** number as small as possible. As discussed above, the tens digit of the smaller number should be 8 and the tens digit of the greater number should be 1. We now have 28* and 31*.

STEP 3:
Now let’s use the same logic for the units digit – make the units digit of the smaller number as large as possible and the units digit of the greater number as small as possible. We have only two digits left over – 6 and 7.

The two numbers could be 287 and 316 – the difference between them is 29.

Let’s try the same logic on another pair of hundreds digits, and make the pair of numbers in the form of 6** and 7**. We need the 6** number to be as large as possible and the 7** number to be as small as possible. Using the same logic as above, we’ll get 683 and 712. The difference between these two is also 29.

The smallest of the given answer choices is 29, so we need to think no more. The answer must be A.

Note that even if you try to express the numbers algebraically as:

N = 100a + 10b + c
M = 100d + 10e + f

a lot of thought will still be needed to find the answer, and there is no real process that can be followed.

Assuming N is the greater number, we need to minimize N – M.

N – M = 100 (a – d) + 10( b – e) + (c – f)

Since a and d cannot be the same, the minimum value a – d can take is 1. (a – d) also cannot be negative because we have assumed that N is greater than M. With this in mind, a and d must be consecutive (2 and 1, or 3 and 2, or 7 and 6, etc). This is another way of completing STEP 1 above.

Next, we need to minimize the value of (b – e). From the available digits, 1 and 8 are the farthest from each other and can give us a difference of -7. So b = 1 and e = 8. This leaves the consecutive pairs of 2, 3 and 6, 7 for hundreds digits. This takes care of our STEP 2 above.

(c – f) should also have a minimum value. We have only one pair of digits left over and they are consecutive, so the minimum value of (c – f) is -1. If the hundreds digits are 3 and 2, then c = 6 and f = 7. This is our STEP 3.

So, the pair of numbers could be 316 and 287 – the difference between them is 29. The pair of numbers could also be 712 and 683 – the difference between them is also 29.

In either case, note that you do not have a process-oriented approach to solving this problem. A bit of higher-order thinking is needed to find the correct answer.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

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!

Flag Your Way to a Better GRE Score

GoalsIn each section of the GRE, there are two important strategic considerations:

1) Each question counts the same: Getting stuck on one question burns valuable time that you could use for the remaining questions.  Maybe you eventually figure out how to solve it, but it might cost you the chance to get two (or more) right answers later on – not great!

2) Time is an asset you control: Knowing how to spend your time effectively can make a big difference in how you score. Spend time on the questions that will earn you points, and minimize time on questions that won’t.

The flagging technique is a great way to take advantage of each of these points. By using it wisely, you can maximize your chances of getting to your target score. Here are three situations where the flagging tool can be invaluable:

You’re pretty sure in your answer, but you’re not certain.
Many GRE takers enter the test well prepared, but there may be some content areas (such as ratios or exponent properties) in which they aren’t fully confident. You may spend a minute working on a problem and get to a point where you feel pretty good about your answer, but you aren’t fully sure (Quantitative comparison questions are notorious for this!). You’d love to do some more testing or double-check your work, but you also realize that it will burn more precious time than you can spare. The solution? Select your answer and flag it. Consider leaving a quick note about your current thoughts so you can pick up right where you left off. If you finish the rest of the section with time remaining, you’ll now have the chance to double-check your initial answer.

You’re not sure how to get started on a problem. 
You’ve read the question. You’ve re-read it. You’ve analyzed the answer choices. You’re still unclear on what the question is asking for, and you’re not even sure what your first steps to figuring it out should be. Hey, it happens – sometimes a question is set up in a way that doesn’t seem to fit the examples you saw during your preparation.

At this point, you have two options: continue staring at the problem and hope the numbers and variables start moving themselves around (like Zach Galifianakis playing blackjack in “The Hangover”), or flag it and move on. If you persist with the question, the best-case scenario is that you eventually figure it out and pick an answer, but you burned time that could have gotten you two or three right answers on other questions. The worst-case scenario is that you eventually give up and move on, burning time without even getting the question right. Your best strategy is to flag it, get some other right answers, and come back to it when you have time to spare.

You can solve a problem, but you know it’s going to take a while. 
“Select All That Apply” questions present this dilemma more often than do other types – the question makes sense, you know how to get started, and you are confident in your ability to find all of the correct answers. On the other hand, you have six or more possible answers, and you know the process to make sure that you find all of the correct answers (remember: no partial credit!) will be time-consuming. Early in the section, spending more than three minutes on one problem is not a wise investment of your time. If there are obvious answers, select them, flag the problem, and return when you have the time to invest.

Clearly, the flagging technique is a strong ally if you know how to use it effectively.  On your next GRE practice test, look for opportunities to flag questions that fit the three categories above. Doing so will allow you to maximize the number of questions you get right by investing your time wisely.

Getting ready to take the GRE? We have free online GRE seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

By Bill Robinson, a Veritas Prep instructor based in San Diego.

When Should You Hire an MBA Admissions Consultant?

MBA AdmissionsApplying for a graduate degree in business, better known as an MBA, is arguably one of the more involved processes of any of the prestigious graduate tracks (law, medical, etc.). With such a complex undertaking and ever-increasing competition from all corners of the globe, admission into business school has become more challenging than ever. That is why so many applicants hire admissions consultants – to help them develop the most comprehensive, thoughtful, and strategic applications possible.

When hiring an admissions consultant, timing is everything! The earliest I would probably recommend hiring an admissions consultant would be April. The average applicant will probably hire a consultant between June and July.

If you’re really trying to make life tough on yourself (and your admissions consultant) you will hire one a month before your application deadline. The longer lead times above allow you to make the process less transactional, which is what can sometimes happen if you hire a consultant at the last minute. A longer lead time not only allows you to have more time to prepare your application, but it also helps you build a relationship with your consultant. When a consultant understands your background and the intricacies of your profile, it can increase the odds your partnership will be fruitful.

It is also important to get things done early because the more iterations you have, the higher the caliber of your application materials and the greater your chances of being accepted. As far as your specific application timeline, it should vary based on whether you are doing five long, complicated applications or just one application. These are instances where the recommendations outlined above are more fluid.

Another aspect of choosing a consultant that few factor in is the availability of the consultant’s time (and also your time). If you are a traveling management consultant or investment banker, who can barely squeeze an hour into the day to do anything, you’re going to want to start really early. This will allow you to slow-roll things based on your limited time to engage with your consultant, and make material progress on your application in any one week.

Overall, the key here is to really understand your needs when choosing a consultant. Thinking through the amount of applications you will be tackling, the support you’ll need, and your own availability will allow you to begin working with your consultant at the right time.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

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 articles by him here.

SAT Quotes to Keep You Focused and Driven as You Approach Test Day

SATAre you in the process of preparing for the SAT? Perhaps you’re completing practice algebra problems each day as you prep for the Math portion of the test, or maybe you’re striving to make your writing clearer and more organized in preparation for the SAT Essay section.

No matter what skills you’re focusing on, you may be feeling a little run-down from all your efforts. As you study for the SAT, quotes from successful, well-known individuals can often provide you with the inspiration you need to keep working toward achieving your goals.

“Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.” (Bill Bradley)
Being an ambitious person, you probably set lofty goals for yourself. You may strive for all A’s in your courses every semester. If you play a sport, you may have the objective of winning a specific award or scoring a certain number of points each game. If you play the piano, you may set a goal of learning a challenging piece of music by a particular date.

You can also set ambitious objectives when it comes to the SAT. For example, you may set your sights on scoring in the top one percent on the test, like our tutors did. This quote points out that being persistent is what helps you arrive at your goals. Studying every day is one example of persistence when it comes to preparing for the SAT. Asking your instructor for clarification on confusing topics and reviewing difficult skills are other examples of being persistent in your SAT studies. This advice holds true for most goals, including success on the SAT.

“When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things.” (Joe Namath)
Building your confidence is part of the SAT prep process. Improving on your weakest skills certainly boosts your confidence leading up to test day. At Veritas Prep, we believe the learning process can be fun, and in our instructional program, we give you the tools and strategies you need to feel confident about every section on the SAT. We want you to walk into the testing center feeling at ease and ready to showcase your skills on the exam.

“I’ve learned time management, organization, and I have priorities.” (Tory Burch)
Preparing for the SAT is a gradual process. To get the most out of your prep time, it’s best to make a schedule for each day’s study tasks. How do you know what tasks to include on your schedule? Take a practice SAT to see what skills you need to work on. If you need to work on recognizing words in context for the Reading section, then quizzing yourself with vocabulary cards is one place to start. This sort of practice would be a task on your study schedule. Set up your schedule by dedicating a certain number of minutes to each task. When you have an organized study schedule, you can complete each day’s tasks with efficiency.

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good teacher.” (Temple Grandin)
What better way is there to achieve a high score on the SAT than to learn from someone who already achieved that goal? Each of the instructors at Veritas Prep scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT, so whether you’re looking to improve your score on just one section of the test or on multiple sections, when you work with us, you’ll be learning from individuals who understand how to get there. Professional SAT instructors use their experience and knowledge to benefit the student.

“Success is dependent on effort.” (Sophocles)
Thorough preparation is necessary for success on the SAT. A high score on the test can help you gain admission into a preferred college. Once there, you can earn a degree that leads you to your dream career. So the efforts you make today to excel on the SAT can set you on the path to achieving your goals in the years to come.

When it comes to the SAT, quotes like these can give you an instant jolt of inspiration. But consistent practice and a dedicated attitude are the real keys to success on the test. At Veritas Prep, we have both private online tutoring and in-person courses available: Let us pair with you as you aim for excellence on the SAT.

Which is Worse to Encounter on a GMAT Question: Median or Mean?

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomHypothetically speaking, given a choice between a question on median and one on mean, which would you choose? (Not that we are fortunate enough to have a choice on test day, but no harm in dreaming!) I would certainly pick the question testing on median, and here is why:

Median is the value at a point – to be precise, the point which divides the increasing data set into two equal halves. You don’t care what is on the left and what is on the right of this point, so an outlier will do nothing to the median. The mean, however depends on every value in the set. If you increase one element of data, the mean of the set changes – outliers can drastically change the value of the mean. Hence, every element has to be kept in mind! With the median, there is a lot less to worry about.

Let’s illustrate this with an example data sufficiency question:

Question on Median:
At a bakery, cakes are sold every day for a certain number of days. If 6 or more cakes were sold for 20% of the total number of days, is the median number of cakes sold less than 4?

Statement 1: On 75% of the days that less than 6 cakes were sold, the number of cakes sold each day was less than 4.
Statement 2: On 50% of the days that 4 or more cakes were sold, the number of cakes sold each day was 6 or more.

The following is the number of cakes sold on any of the days mentioned in the question:

 

Say there were 100 days (since all figures are in terms of percentages, we can assume a number to simplify our understanding).

The question stem tells us that 6 or more cakes were sold for 20% of the days, so for 20 days, 6 or more cakes were sold. Then for 80 days, 1/2/3/4/5 cakes were sold.

With this information in mind, is the median number of cakes sold in one day less than 4?

We know how to get the median. When we arrange all figures in increasing order, the median will be the average of the 50th and the 51st terms. We need to know if the average of the 50th and 51st term is less than 4. Let’s tackle the statements one at a time:

Statement 1: On 75% of the days that less than 6 cakes were sold, the number of cakes sold each day was less than 4.

The number of days that less than 6 cakes were sold = 80. 75% of these 80 days will be 60 days. In 60 days, less than 4 cakes were sold. So the 50th and 51st terms will be less than 4 and so will their average. Hence, the median will be less than 4. This statement alone is sufficient.

Statement 2: On 50% of the days that 4 or more cakes were sold, the number of cakes sold each day was 6 or more.

In 20 days, 6 or more cakes were sold. This constitutes 50% of the days during which 4 or more cakes were sold, so in another 20 days, 4 or 5 cakes were sold. Hence, during the leftover 60 days, less than 4 cakes were sold. The 50th and 51st terms will be less than 4 and so will their average. Hence, the median will be less than 4. This statement alone is also sufficient, so our answer is D.

All we needed to worry about here were the 50th and 51st terms, however the whole problem changes when we talk about mean instead of median.

Same Question on Mean:
At a bakery, cakes are sold every day for a certain number of days. If 6 or more cakes were sold for 20% of the total number of days, is the average number of cakes sold less than 4?

Statement 1: On 75% of the days that less than 6 cakes were sold, the number of cakes sold each day was less than 4.
Statement 2: On 50% of the days that 4 or more cakes were sold, the number of cakes sold each day was 6 or more.

Again, the question stem tells us that 6 or more cakes were sold for 20% of the days, so for 20 days, 6 or more cakes were sold. Then for 80 days, 1/2/3/4/5 cakes were sold.

We now need to ask ourselves is the average number of cakes sold in one day less than 4?

This question asks us about the average. – that is far more complicated than the median. Every value matters when we talk about the average. We need to know the number of cakes sold on each of these 100 days to get the average.

6 or more cakes were sold in 20 days. Note that the number of cakes sold during these 20 days could be any number greater than 6, such as 20 or 50 or 120, etc. The minimum number of cakes sold on these 20 days would be 6*20 = 120. There is no limit to the maximum number of cakes sold.

With this in mind, let’s examine the statements:

Statement 1: On 75% of the days that less than 6 cakes were sold, the number of cakes sold each day was less than 4.

In 80 days, less than 6 cakes were sold. Of this number, 75% is 60 days. In 60 days, less than 4 cakes were sold.

So in 60 days, you have a minimum of 1*60 = 60 cakes sold and a maximum of 3*60 = 180 cakes sold. During the leftover 20 days 4 or 5 cakes were sold, so you have a minimum of 4*20 = 80 cakes and a maximum of 5*20 = 100 cakes.

The minimum value of the average is (120 + 60 + 80)/ 100 = 2.6 cakes, but the maximum average could be anything. Therefore, this statement alone is not sufficient.

Statement 2: On 50% of the days that 4 or more cakes were sold, the number of cakes sold each day was 6 or more.

The 20 days when 6 or more cakes were sold make up 50% of the days when 4 or more cakes were sold. So for another 20 days, 4 or 5 cakes were sold. This gives us a minimum of 4*20 = 80 cakes and a maximum of 5*20 = 100 cakes. For 60 days, 1/2/3 cakes were sold. So in 60 days, you have minimum of 1*60 = 60 cakes sold and a maximum of 3*60 = 180 cakes sold.

The minimum value of the average is (120 + 60 + 80)/ 100 = 2.6 cakes, but again, the maximum average could be anything. This statement alone is also not sufficient.

Note that both statements give you the same information, so if they are not sufficient independently, they are not sufficient together. The answer of this modified question would be E.

Here, we had to assume the minimum and maximum value for each data point to get the range of the average – we couldn’t just rely on one or two data points. Finding the mean during a GMAT question requires much more information than finding the median!

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

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!

How to Leverage Scholarship Money

featured_money@wdd2xGoing to business school can be an expensive affair. Price tags for a top two-year full time programs can soar over $200,000 dollars, which for most applicants is more than they have socked away in their piggy bank. There are many ways to pay for your graduate business school education and the one that excites applicants the most is scholarship money!

Business school is an expensive proposition and if a program offers scholarship money as part of their financial package, it opens up a ton of financial flexibility for applicants. Many programs use scholarship money as a “carrot” to entice high potential and strongly desired candidates to their school. It is always good to be wanted by a program but sometimes these scholarship offers come from less desired programs, presenting difficult decisions when it comes to making the ultimate choice of where to matriculate. Sometimes the scholarship offers come from desired programs as well, but even with this good fortune, situations can still arise that create difficult decisions between programs.

If you have received multiple offers from MBA programs with imbalanced financial support there are a few different approaches you can take:

Do Nothing
This is the approach many applicants take. This is my least favorite and the least effective approach. You have nothing to lose by politely and respectfully communicating other offers and your desire for additional support. If you never mention it that is the best way to forego any potential leverage you may have.

Reach Out via Email
This is the next step in being proactive about leveraging your scholarship offer. Getting a school to change their mind about scholarship money is not easy, but it must start with some dialogue. The key here is being respectful and offering up some information about your other admits and associated scholarship funding. Reaching out to the right decision maker can also improve your odds of success here.

Call or Meet in Person
This is my favorite approach to leveraging your scholarship offer. The business school application process is very personal for admissions. So, if you can connect with them on a personal basis, whether on the phone or in person, it can only help your chances of them offering additional scholarship support. I think it is also important to really think through how important the scholarship money is to your ultimate decision making process. Many schools will negotiate the scholarship offer with the expectation that you will accept, so make sure you enter into these conversations being open and honest.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

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 articles by him here.

How is the ACT Composite Score Calculated?

GMATIf you’re a Junior in high school, you may have already signed up to take the ACT. Chances are good that you know that a composite score of 36 is the highest you can achieve on the ACT. But do you know how an ACT composite score is calculated? Learning how graders arrive at your ACT composite score can help you feel more at ease as you sit down to take the test.

How Are ACT Scores Calculated?
To get to your composite score on the ACT, you must begin with your raw scores. You receive a raw score for each of the four sections on the ACT. Your raw score represents the number of questions you got right. There are 75 questions in the English section, 60 in the Math section, 40 in the Reading section, and 40 in the Science section. (The ACT essay is optional, and its score is not factored into your composite score.) So if you answered 55 questions correctly out of 60 in the Math section, your raw score for Math would be 55.

After arriving at a raw score for each of the four sections, you are now given a scaled score for each one. Your scaled scores will range from one to 36. Each individual version of the ACT has a chart used to make this conversion, adjusted based on the difficulty of the specific questions used on each test date. For instance, a raw score of 55 in the Math section usually converts to a scaled score somewhere around 33. Now, add your four scaled scores together and average them: The average of your four scaled scores is your ACT composite score.

What Is on an Official ACT Score Report?
Now that you know how an ACT composite score is calculated, you know what to look for on your official score report. But there’s a lot more on your score report than just your composite score. You’ll also see a detailed breakdown of your scores for the skills tested within each section. For example, you’ll see scores for “Production of Writing,” “Knowledge of Language,” and “Conventions of Standard English” beneath the scaled score you receive on the English section. There is also information on how your test performance ranked compared to other students taking the ACT in your state as well as throughout the country. The information on your official score report can be very useful if you decide to retake the ACT.

ACT Prep Tips
Start your preparations for the ACT by taking a practice test to determine where you need to begin your studies. Next, make your study plan based on the results of your practice test. As an example, if you see the need to sharpen your algebra skills, put aside some time to review the basics. Then, put this information to work by completing practice algebra problems each day. If you’re focusing on the Reading section of the ACT, take the opportunity to read online newspaper articles, magazines, and nonfiction books to get some practice spotting main ideas. Also, look for unfamiliar words in these publications to determine if you can figure out the meaning of a word by looking at its context. In addition, examine these reading materials for the proper use of grammar and correct spelling. These skills are helpful on both the Reading and English sections of the ACT.

The Benefits of Studying With a Tutor
Learning how the ACT is scored is easy when you have an experienced tutor to explain the process. The tutors at Veritas Prep have many qualifications that benefit our students. For one, each of them has scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. As if this isn’t impressive enough, our supportive instructors are experts at conveying the strategies and lessons that lead our students to ACT success!

If you have any more questions about how an ACT score is calculated, we have the answers you’re looking for. We can also provide several tutoring options so you can choose the one that’s most appropriate for you. Whether you want to take part in our in-person classes, private online tutoring sessions, or live online courses, we are ready to help you excel on the ACT.

How MBA Admissions Directors Value Your GPA

RecommenderOne of the most important criteria that will be evaluated by admissions directors will be your GPA. Contrary to popular belief, this criteria can be a bit more complicated of an assessment than one would think. Now you are probably thinking how complicated can a simple GPA be? Doesn’t the GPA just have to be high? Very complicated in fact! Let us explore the key aspects MBA programs will evaluate, and why they are so important to how your GPA is received by decision makers.

Overall Undergraduate GPA
This is probably the most obvious aspect of the GPA that schools will focus on. Your overall GPA is considered a fit if it is around or above the average GPA at your target school. Now, all GPAs are not created equally so program’s will certainly factor in the prestige and perceived rigor of your undergraduate school. Same rules apply, the higher the GPA the better your application will be positioned.

Quantitative Classes
Your performance in qualitative classes is really important to your overall candidacy. MBA curriculums are very quantitative in nature, particularly with regards to the traditional core curriculum that includes classes like Stats, Finance, and Accounting. So, schools put a major onus on showing a track record of strong performance in quant classes. Now, not everyone has been exposed to quant classes which is another issue. So even with a high overall GPA not having taken any quant classes, in the past, can be a red flag for admissions.

GPA Trend
Did your GPA trend up or trend down during your time in undergrad? Your overall trend is another area where admissions will focus on. A strong trend upwards showcases maturity and a consistent focus on your studies, and also will be an indicator for future performance in b-school. Now contrary to that, a trend of low performance can signal the exact opposite. Slight dips here and there should not cause concern on your part, but major swings and a trend downward year in and year out may prove to be a red flag for admissions.

Graduate GPA
If you have already completed a graduate degree, this can be another evaluation point for admissions. Strong performance here can help elevate your candidacy. Now, generally your graduate degree performance will not outrank your undergraduate degree performance but strong performance in power degrees like law can certainly showcase your intellectual aptitude and ability to handle graduate level work.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

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 articles by him here.

10 SAT Writing and Language Tips to Improve Your SAT Essay

writing essayThe SAT Essay section is an optional part of the exam. However, many students decide to write the essay because they know it’s an admission requirement for some colleges. If you’re looking for tips on how to boost your performance on the SAT essay, there are many to be found. Use these 10 tips to improve your own SAT essay on test day:

 

1) Make an Outline. As a high school student, you know that the basic outline of an essay includes an introduction, body, and conclusion. One way to start out on the right foot with your SAT essay is to make an outline that lays out all of the points, details, and other elements you want to include. You can refer to your outline throughout the writing process to ensure that your essay is organized and complete. Though it takes some time to create an outline, it can reduce the amount of revisions you have to make.

2) Analyze the Writing Prompt. Some students skim over the essay prompt and dive right into the writing. This is a mistake. The prompt lays out exactly what you need to look for and evaluate in the author’s piece.

3) Focus on a Few Significant Points of the Argument. This is one of the most helpful SAT writing and language tips. When you focus on just a few significant points, you’re displaying your ability to recognize the most persuasive elements in the essay. Also, discussing a few points in a thorough way is a lot more effective than trying to touch on every persuasive element employed by the author.

4) Expand Your Vocabulary. An SAT essay-grader evaluates your command of the English language. Consequently, one way to boost your performance on the essay is to learn some new vocabulary words. Science, news, and literary magazines are great resources for new words. Once you have a dozen or more, use them in everyday conversation or on school assignments. Quizzing yourself with an online vocabulary game is a fun way to ensure that you retain new words. Ideally, you want to use words that lend to the clarity and succinctness of your SAT essay.

5) Strive for Quantity and Quality in Your Essay. As you practice your essay-writing skills, keep in mind that you are aiming for quantity as well as quality. As a rule, it takes about one to two written pages to fully explain how an author supports their claims.

6) Include a Strong Thesis Statement in Your Introduction. In your thesis statement, you should reveal the author’s argument and the persuasive elements they use. This sets the stage for you to begin pointing out specific examples of the author’s persuasive devices. When you create a strong, clear thesis statement, you’re showing essay-graders that you understand the author’s argument and recognize the persuasive elements.

7) Brush Up on Your Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation Skills. This is one of the simplest SAT essay tips to follow. When you use proper grammar as well as correct spelling and punctuation, it adds to the quality of your essay. Keep in mind that these sorts of errors can detract from even the most convincing SAT essay.

8) Write With Objectivity. Chances are good that you’ll have an opinion on the topic discussed in the author’s essay. But your job is to evaluate the author’s persuasive argument, not state your opinion on the given topic. Writing an objective essay shows essay-graders that you read and are adhering to the prompt.

9) Highlight Specific Details. All of the material you need for your essay can be found in the author’s piece. When you point out specific details, you’re displaying your ability to effectively analyze an argument.

10) Take Care With Your Handwriting. The quality of your handwriting may not enter your mind as you prep for the SAT essay, but if graders have too difficult of a time deciphering a student’s handwriting, they aren’t likely to give the person’s essay much consideration. If you don’t feel comfortable with cursive, write the essay in print. Don’t let messy handwriting prevent you from highlighting your impressive essay-writing skills!

Our professional SAT instructors scored in the 99th percentile on the test, so when you take our courses, you’re getting SAT essay tips from individuals who conquered all parts of the exam. We teach you strategies designed to improve the quality of your writing. Sign up for SAT tutoring services at Veritas Prep and get access to many other SAT writing and language tips. Make the call today!

An Interesting Right Triangle Property You’ll Need to Know for the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomIn a previous post, we discussed medians, altitudes and angle bisectors of isosceles and equilateral triangles. Today, we will discuss an interesting property of perpendicular bisectors and circumcenter of right triangles.

Property: The circumcenter of a right triangle is the mid point of the hypotenuse.

Let’s prove this first and then we will see its application.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Say, we have a right triangle ABC right angled at B. Let’s draw the perpendicular bisector of AB which intersects AB at its mid point M. Say this line intersects the hypotenuse AC at N. We need to prove that AN = CN. Note that triangle AMN and triangle ABC are similar triangles using the AA property (angle AMN = angle ABC = 90 degrees and angle A is common to both triangles). So the ratio of the sides of the two triangle is the same. Since MN is the perpendicular bisector of line AB, AM = MB which means that AM is half of AB.

So AM/AB = 1/2 = AN/AC

Hence AN = NC

So N is the mid point of AC.

Using the exact same logic for side BC, we will see that its perpendicular bisector also bisects the hypotenuse. So N would be the circumcenter of triangle ABC and the mid point of AC.

Using an official question, let’s see how this property can be useful to us:

In the rectangular coordinate system shown above, points O, P, and Q represent the sites of three proposed housing developments. If a fire station can be built at any point in the coordinate system, at which point would it be equidistant from all three developments?

(A) (3,1)
(B) (1,3)
(C) (3,2)
(D) (2,2)
(E) (2,3)

 

 

 

 

 

First, let’s see how we will solve this question without knowing this property and using co-ordinate geometry instead.

Method 1:
Points O and Q lie on the X axis and are 4 units apart. We need a point equidistant from both O and Q. All such points will lie on the line lying in the middle of O and Q and perpendicular to the X axis. The equation of such a line will be x = 2. The fire station should be somewhere on this line.

Points O and P lie on the Y axis and are 6 units apart. We need a point equidistant from both O and P. All such points will lie on the line lying in the middle of O and P and perpendicular to the Y axis. The equation of such a line will be y = 3. The fire station should be somewhere on this line too.

Any two lines on the XY plane intersect at most at one point (if they are not overlapping). Since the fire station must lie on both these lines, it must be on their intersection i.e. at (2, 3).

This point (2,3) will be equidistant from O, Q and P. Therefore, the answer is E.

Method 2:
Think of the question in terms of the perpendicular bisectors of triangle OPQ. Their point of intersection will be equidistant from all three vertices.

We know that the circumcenter lies on the mid point of the hypotenuse. The end points of the hypotenuse are (4, 0) and (0, 6). The mid point will be

x = (4 + 0)/2 = 2
y = (0 + 6)/2 = 3

As in Method 1, the point (2, 3) will be equidistant from all three points, O, P and Q. Again, the answer is E.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

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!

How to Get Started on the Common App: The 2017-2018 Personal Statement Prompts

help - wordsGreetings, class of 2022! That has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? At Veritas Prep, there’s nothing like a change of seasons – the distinct shift from one application season to another is immensely exciting to us. And, there is no better indicator of a new season than the release of Personal Statement prompts from The Common App. Class of 2022, now is your time!

The Common Application officially kicked off the 2017/18 application season by releasing their Personal Statement prompts back in February. Now is the best time to start working on crafting your answers to one of these prompts – by starting your writing during the summer, you’ll have more time to create the perfect response without worrying about school responsibilities or extracurriculars come Fall.

Year after year, The Common Application collaborates with their partner institutions to make sure that the prompts meet the needs of each school and are yielding quality essay responses from students around the world. While some elements remain unchanged (including the 650 word count), this year they have decided to make revisions to existing prompts AND add two new prompts to the mix!

Without further ado, here are the 2017/2018 Common Application Essay Prompts:

1) Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. [No change]

2) The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure.How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]

3) Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]

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

5) Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]

6) Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? [New]

7) Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design[New]

Over the next few months, we will break down every prompt for the 2017/2018 application season with in-depth coaching on how we would suggest you approach each prompt. Check back in soon for more!

Do you need more help navigating the college admissions process? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

How to Use Ratios in GMAT Verbal Questions

SAT/ACTI’ve written in the past about the GMAT’s tendency to use simple math concepts in the context of a Critical Reasoning question. One instance of this phenomenon is the test’s predilection for incorporating ratios in the Verbal section. It makes sense for the question-writers to do this. If we think about the types of core concepts you’re likely to encounter in your future MBA program: output/worker or price/earnings, etc., simple ratios are inescapable.

Here’s all we need to know:

  • If the numerator increases and the denominator remains constant, the ratio will increase.
  • If the denominator increases and the numerator remains constant, the ratio will decrease.

From this, we can also intuit that if the ratio doubled and the denominator remained constant, the numerator must have doubled. And if the ratio doubled and the numerator remained constant, the denominator must have been halved. Pretty simple, right? For whatever reason, these concepts tend not to produce any difficulty in the Quantitative section when test-takers are expecting them, but cause all sorts of problems when they crop up in Verbal questions. Let’s see an example.

That the application of new technology can increase the productivity of existing coal mines is demonstrated by the case of Tribnia’s coal industry. Coal output per miner in Tribnia is double what it was five years ago, even though no new mines have opened. 

Which of the following can be properly concluded from the statement about coal output per miner in the passage?

A) If the number of miners working in Tribnian coal mines has remained constant in the past five years, Tribnia’s total coal production has doubled in that period of time.
B) Any individual Tribnian coal mine that achieved an increase in overall output in the past five years has also experienced an increase in output per miner.
C) If any new coal mines had opened in Tribnia in the past five years, then the increase in output per miner would have been even greater than it actually was.
D) If any individual Tribnian coal mine has not increased its output per miner in the past five years, then that mine’s overall output has declined or remained constant.
E) In Tribnia the cost of producing a given quantity of coal has declined over the past five years. 

As soon as we see “per” we know we’re dealing with a ratio problem. In this case, we’re discussing coal output per miner. As a ratio, or fraction, this can be expressed as follows: Total Coal Output/Total Number of Miners. Further, we know that this ratio has doubled over the last five years. Employing the logic we used earlier, we now know that because the ratio doubled, if the number of miners (the denominator) remained constant, then the coal output (the numerator) doubled. And we also know that if the coal output (the numerator) remained constant, then the number of miners (the denominator) must have been halved. If we recognize this relationship, the correct answer is going to leap out at us.

  1. This is a restatement of the relationship we’ve already documented – namely that if the denominator remained constant, the numerator must have doubled. Clearly, we’ve got our answer. (But it’s still helpful to evaluate why all the wrong answer choices are incorrect, something you should be doing with every practice problem you attempt.)
  2. We can’t deduce what any individual coal mine has achieved based on the output per worker of all the mines in aggregate.
  3. Again, there’s no way to know what the productivity level of any mine might have been, let alone a hypothetical new one.
  4. If we understand how ratios work, we can see that this is not necessarily true. If the ratio has not increased, there are two possible explanations. First, the numerator has not increased. (This is what’s stated in the answer choice.) Second, the denominator has increased by more than the numerator has increased. Therefore we don’t know that output has declined or remained constant. It could be the case that the number of miners has gone up.
  5. This is out of scope. We don’t know what’s happened to the cost of producing coal.

The correct answer is A.

Takeaway: You see plenty of ratios in Critical Reasoning, so make sure you understand that when a ratio changes, it means that either the numerator or denominator (or both) has changed. If you treat these questions as simple Quant problems rather than as abstruse Verbal questions, you’re far less likely to be tripped up.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? We have GMAT prep courses starting all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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

GMAT Prerequisites: What are the GMAT Requirements to Take the Test?

ChecklistDoes your career path include an MBA? If so, there are several steps on the path leading to business school. One of those steps involves taking the Graduate Management Admission Test, also known as the GMAT. But before taking the test, you should get acquainted with the GMAT prerequisites and make sure you’re prepared to take on this important challenge.

GMAT Requirements
There are not a lot of GMAT prerequisites when it comes to specific types of education. For instance, a bachelor’s degree is not a GMAT requirement. However, the material you learn as a business major in undergraduate school can contribute to your performance on the GMAT. One GMAT requirement found on the official website is that anyone who is under 18 years old must have written permission from a parent or legal guardian to take the GMAT.

Registering for the GMAT
Among the basic GMAT requirements is, of course, registering for the test. Opening an account on the official GMAT website is the simplest way to register. You can schedule a test, cancel, reschedule, or find a testing center via your account. Finding a testing center near you is an easy task. All you do is enter your ZIP code, address, or city and state in the search bar. Your test center options will appear on the screen. If you have a documented disability, you can check into accommodations using your account. Another GMAT requirement is the scheduling fee, which is $250.

What Is on the GMAT?
The purpose of the GMAT is to determine whether you are a good candidate for business school. Of course, your GMAT score isn’t the only qualification considered by business schools, but in many cases, your score carries a lot of weight with admissions officials. The GMAT is made up of four sections: Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal, and Analytical Writing. Questions in the Integrated Reasoning section test your ability to evaluate information delivered in the form of graphs, charts, tables, and more. Questions in the Quantitative section measure your arithmetic, geometry and algebra skills. Data analysis is also a part of the Quantitative section. The Verbal section features reading comprehension, sentence correction, and critical reasoning questions. The Analytical Writing section of the exam measures your ability to evaluate an argument while supplying solid evidence to support your points.

How to Prepare for the GMAT
Taking a practice test is a great place to start when preparing for the GMAT. At Veritas Prep, we provide you with the opportunity to take a free test to get an accurate picture of your skills before the GMAT. Your detailed test results reveal your strongest skills as well as the ones that need improvement. The GMAT curriculum at Veritas Prep thoroughly prepares you for each section on the exam. But instead of just presenting you with facts to memorize, our experienced instructors teach you how to apply what you know to solve problems. Questions on the GMAT gauge your ability to think like a businessperson.

How Much Time Does it Take to Prepare for the Test?
There is no hard and fast rule on how long you should take to prep for the GMAT. Some people spend one month studying for this test, while others dedicate several weeks to their preparations. After studying for a few weeks, you may want to take another practice test to gauge the progress you’ve made since you took your first practice GMAT. Your score on the second practice test can be an excellent indicator of whether you are ready to take the official exam. There is plenty of general advice concerning the test, but you have to make your own decision as to when you’re ready.

We are proud to offer first-rate GMAT tutoring at Veritas Prep. We’ve done the research and come up with a study program that has proven successful for our students time and again. Our study resources teach you how to think like the test-maker, and when you sign up with us, you’ll study with instructors who scored in the 99th percentile on the GMAT. In addition to that, they are expert teachers who know how to convey powerful lessons. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’re learning strategies and tips from the very best! Contact Veritas Prep today to achieve excellence on the GMAT.

ACT Geometry Practice and Tips

tutoringThe Math section on the ACT challenges you with several types of questions. About 12 to 15 percent of those questions are related to geometry. Putting a few easy tips into practice can help you to perform your best on the ACT geometry questions.

Memorize Formulas
As you prep for these questions, it’s a good idea to memorize some basic formulas of geometry. Some formulas are not provided for you on the test. A few examples include:

  • Volume = (area of base) (height)
  • Circle circumference = 2πr
  • Circle area = πr2
  • Rectangle = lwh

When you memorize basic geometry formulas, you’ll be able to work through the questions in a timely and efficient way. Of course, knowing the formulas is not enough: You must be able to put them into practice.

Take Timed Practice Tests
Working through ACT geometry practice questions is an essential part of preparing for this section of the test. However, don’t forget to time your practice tests. You have 60 minutes to complete all 60 questions on the ACT Math section. This means you have no more than a minute to dedicate to each one. Chances are good that you’ll spend just a few seconds on some questions and up to 30 seconds on others. Completing a timed practice test is an excellent way to establish a test-taking rhythm so you know when to move on to the next problem. You can always skip a problem that is especially puzzling and return to it later on. Ideally, you want to finish the Math section with a few minutes to spare so you can review your answers.

Analyze Incorrect Answers to Practice Questions
Analyzing the answers to your ACT geometry practice questions should be part of your test prep. If you got an answer wrong, it’s important to go back and look at your work. Where did you make the mistake? You may find that you’ve made the same mistake on other problems. This is helpful information because once you’re aware of it, you can avoid making the same error again. An important question to ask is, “Why did I make that mistake?” You may find that you rushed through a problem, forgetting part of the formula, or perhaps you calculated the area when the question asked for the perimeter. Being aware of why you made a mistake can help you refocus and avoid making the same errors.

Draw Diagrams and Shapes
You can use scratch paper on the ACT. Drawing shapes and diagrams can help you to organize the elements of each geometry question. Also, you can write down the formula for a problem as well as its steps so you can review what went wrong if your answer is not among the options. It’s unnecessary to mentally picture a shape labeled with all of its measurements as well as the formula that goes with the problem. Using your scratch paper saves time and can clarify each step in the process.

Eliminate Wrong Answer Choices
Another tip to remember as you practice ACT geometry problems is to get into the habit of eliminating answer options that are clearly incorrect. Dealing with fewer answer options can make a problem look a lot simpler. Also, it can help you complete all of the problems more quickly.

Practice Throughout the Day
It’s a good idea to create a detailed study schedule that includes practicing your geometry skills for the ACT. In addition to that, try reviewing geometry problems throughout the day. One idea is to make flashcards that display the different formulas you need to memorize. Keep them in your bag or pocket to review while you’re standing in line to buy lunch, waiting for the bus, or waiting for class to begin. Studying and reviewing throughout the day gives you several more opportunities to sharpen your geometry skills outside of your formal study time.

The professional instructors at Veritas Prep are experts when it comes to geometry, algebra, statistics, and every other type of math on the ACT. In fact, we can prep you for all sections of the test! You’ll study with an instructor who scored in the 99th percentile on the exam. Plus, we give you several options so you can study for the ACT in a way that is most convenient for you. We have online and in-person courses, private tutoring, and On Demand instruction. Call today and give us the opportunity to guide you toward excellence on the ACT!

Tackling GMAT Critical Reasoning Boldface Questions

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomFor some reason, GMAT test takers automatically associate boldface questions with the 700 level, but this fear is unfounded, honestly!

We have often found that one strategy, which is very helpful in other question types too, helps sort out most questions of this type, though not in the same way. That strategy is – ‘find the conclusion(s)’

The conclusion of the argument is the position taken by the author.

Boldface questions (and others too) sometimes have more than one conclusion – One would be the conclusion of the argument i.e. the author’s conclusion. The argument could mention another conclusion which could be the conclusion of a certain segment of people/ some scientists/ some researchers/ a politician etc. We need to segregate these two and how each premise supports/opposes the various conclusion. Once this structure is in place, we automatically find the answer. Let’s see how with an example.

Question: Recently, motorists have begun purchasing more and more fuel-efficient economy and hybrid cars that consume fewer gallons of gasoline per mile traveled. There has been debate as to whether we can conclude that these purchases will actually lead to an overall reduction in the total consumption of gasoline across all motorists. The answer is no, since motorists with more fuel-efficient vehicles are likely to drive more total miles than they did before switching to a more fuel-efficient car, negating the gains from higher fuel-efficiency.

Which of the following best describes the roles of the portions in bold?

(A)The first describes a premise that is accepted as true; the second introduces a conclusion that is opposed by the argument as a whole.

(B)The first states a position taken by the argument; the second introduces a conclusion that is refuted by additional evidence.

(C)The first is evidence that has been used to support a position that the argument as a whole opposes; the second provides information to undermine the force of that evidence.

(D)The first is a conclusion that is later shown to be false; the second is the evidence by which that conclusion is proven false.

(E)The first is a premise that is later shown to be false; the second is a conclusion that is later shown to be false.

Solution: As our first step, let’s try to figure out the conclusion of the argument:

The author’s view is that “purchases of fuel efficient vehicles will NOT lead to an overall reduction in the total consumption of gasoline across all motorists.”

This is the position the argument (and author) takes.

The argument gives us another conclusion: these purchases will actually lead to an overall reduction in the total consumption of gasoline across all motorists.

Some people take this position (implied by the use of “there has been debate”)

This is our second bold statement. It introduces the opposing conclusion.

Let’s look at our options now.

(A) The first describes a premise that is accepted as true; the second introduces a conclusion that is opposed by the argument as a whole.

The first bold statement: Recently, motorists have begun purchasing more and more fuel-efficient economy and hybrid cars that consume fewer gallons of gasoline per mile traveled.

This is a premise and has been accepted as true. We know it has been accepted as true since the last line ends with – “…negating the gains from higher fuel-efficiency”

We have seen above that the second bold statement tells us about a conclusion that the argument opposes.

So (A) is correct. We have found our answer but let’s look at the other options too.

(B) The first states a position taken by the argument; the second introduces a conclusion that is refuted by additional evidence.

The first bold statement is a premise. It is not the position taken by the argument. Let’s move on.

(C) The first is evidence that has been used to support a position that the argument as a whole opposes; the second provides information to undermine the force of that evidence.

This option often confuses test-takers.

The evidence is – “Recently, motorists have begun purchasing more and more fuel-efficient economy and hybrid cars that consume fewer gallons of gasoline per mile traveled.”

That is, “the motorists have begun purchasing fuel efficient cars that give better mileage.”

The second bold statement does not undermine this evidence at all. In fact, it builds up on it with – “This brings up a debate on whether it will lead to overall decreased fuel consumption?”

Hence (C) is not correct.

(D)The first is a conclusion that is later shown to be false; the second is the evidence by which that conclusion is proven false.

The first bold statement is not a conclusion. So no point dwelling on this option.

(E)The first is a premise that is later shown to be false; the second is a conclusion that is later shown to be false.

The premise is taken to be true. The argument ends with “… the gains from higher fuel-efficiency”. Hence, this option doesn’t stand a chance either.

We hope you see how easy it is to break down the options once we identify the conclusion(s).

Keep practicing!

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

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!

Which SAT Prep Course is Right for Me?

StudentThe SAT is divided into four sections. Maybe you’re confident about the Math and Reading sections of the test but you’re a little unsure about writing the essay. Or perhaps you’re looking for study help on all sections of the SAT. Either way, you may be wondering, “Which SAT prep course is the best for me?” Taking some time to answer this question can help you study in an efficient way for this important exam. Fortunately, students have several effective options to choose from.

In-Person Courses
One option is in-person prep courses. These are conducted in much the same way as the classes you take at school, so if you learn best when you’re in a dynamic classroom environment, then this may be the best choice for you. Hearing the questions and comments of other students may lend to your own learning process. It’s important to think about your preferred learning environment when deciding which SAT prep course is the best for you.

Online Courses
These courses are identical in every way to the in-person option except that they are taken online. An instructor conducts the prep course live while you listen and learn via computer at home or in another environment of your choosing. The lessons are interactive, so you can ask questions and receive answers as if the instructor is in the same room with you. One of the main advantages of this option is that you don’t have to travel to a particular location to receive quality preparation for the SAT. If you’re someone who enjoys online learning and can maintain focus without being in an actual classroom, then this may be the best learning option for you. Furthermore, if you like to use technology such as an interactive whiteboard and instant messaging in the course of your studies, then you may want to go with SAT prep courses conducted online.

Private Tutoring Sessions
Have you ever worked with a tutor who helped you improve your grades in math, English, or another class in school? If so, you may want to get a private tutor to help you prepare for the SAT. Signing up for private tutoring sessions gives you the opportunity to have a customized study plan. You can get prompt answers to all of your questions, allowing you to progress in your studies. Also, during your sessions, you can practice the strategies taught to you by your instructor. Private tutoring sessions can be conducted either in person or online. Either way, this is an ideal situation if you enjoy working one-on-one with someone who cares about your success on the SAT as much as you do.

On-Demand Instruction
Are you someone who likes to have a lot of control over the pace of your lessons? If so, then on-demand instruction could be the ideal choice you. Our On Demand instruction option allows you to study for the SAT in your own way. Your lessons are conveyed by professional instructors via HD video. If you feel that you want to go back to review a lesson or topic, you’re free to do that. In addition, you can choose a study environment that suits your preferences. Some students like to study at home, while others use a study room at the local library or settle in in a quiet corner of a restaurant. As long as you have Internet access, you can study practically anywhere.

At Veritas Prep, we offer all of these options to students who are preparing for the SAT. We provide you with several types of instruction so you can choose the one that’s most suitable for you. Each of our SAT instructors is more than qualified to guide you to success on the exam. In fact, we only hire instructors who earned an SAT score landing them in the 99th percentile. Because of their practical experience with the test, our tutors know how to approach the SAT as well as what strategies work the best. We give you tips you can use both before and during the test. Take a moment to browse our selection of SAT prep options and choose the one that appeals most to you. The team at Veritas Prep is here to help you ace the SAT!

What is a School Code for, and Why Do I Need it?

SAT Scantron TestAs you register for the ACT, you’ll see that there are codes for different institutions, both high schools and colleges. Entering the proper code for a school seems like a small detail, but it’s a significant step in the ACT registration process.

The Purpose of High School Codes
You have to submit a code for your high school before you’re officially signed up to take the ACT. High school codes are used by the ACT to make sure that each student’s score report is delivered to the proper location. Assigning a code to every high school makes it easier for the ACT to connect each student with a high school as well as a testing location.

How Do I Find My High School Code?
You can find the proper code for your school while registering for the ACT. High school codes can be accessed via the test’s official website, ACT.org. Simply go to the high school code search tool on the website and enter your country, state, and city in the blanks. Click on “search” and you’ll see the name of your high school accompanied by its assigned code. If you are homeschooled, be sure to consult the special instructions on the ACT’s website.

The Purpose of College Codes
Once you have your high school code in place, it’s time to take a look at college codes for the ACT. College codes are used to organize the process of sending your ACT scores to universities. Instead of typing the names of colleges on your registration forms, you’ll enter codes that represent those colleges. This helps the ACT to avoid sending a student’s score reports to the wrong colleges. Keep in mind that each year, there are millions of students who take the ACT. College codes prove very helpful in keeping all of those score reports sorted out and headed to the right places.

How to Find College Codes
There is a college code search tool on the ACT’s official website. Simply click on the state and city where the college is located. You will receive results that include the name of the college and its code.

Preparing for the ACT
Finding high school and college codes is the easy part of getting ready for the ACT. The more challenging part is actually getting down to work and studying for this important test. The first thing on your to-do list should be to take a timed practice ACT test. The results let you know how your skills measure up on the English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing portions of the exam. Plus, a practice test can give you insight on your test-taking skills. Did you finish all of the Math questions in the allotted 60 minutes? If not, you can begin to refresh your math skills to reduce the time it takes to finish each problem.

Often, it’s helpful to have expert guidance when preparing for a standardized test. This is where the ACT instructors at Veritas Prep come in. Each of our professional instructors not only took the ACT but achieved a score of at least 33 out of 36 on the test. Making the decision to prep for the ACT with our instructors means you’ll be studying with experts on the material. You’ll receive a customized study plan that addresses your weakest skills and gives you strategies to boost your abilities in those areas. Each instructional session is valuable and productive because we pair you with a tutor who understands the way you learn. We are proud to say that our proven strategies and practical tips have led many students to success on the ACT.

Still not sure whether you want help studying for the ACT? Check out our ACT trial class for free to see for yourself what we have to offer you. You have a choice of online or in-person classes, private tutoring, or On Demand instruction. We give you several options to consider so you can settle on what works best for you. On top of all of that, we back up our instruction with a guarantee that your ACT score will improve. Contact Veritas Prep today and let us play a part in your victory over the ACT!

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Dealing with Complex Word Problems

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomIn studying for the GMAT, we often come across a strategy for how to handle complex questions – simplify them until they become a problem that we know how to solve. But how exactly does one simplify a complicated GMAT question? Let’s try to understand this with an example today:

Twenty-four men can complete a job in sixteen days. Thirty-two women can complete the same job in twenty-four days. Sixteen men and sixteen women started working on the job for twelve days. How many more men must be added to complete the job in 2 days?

(A) 16
(B) 24
(C) 36
(D) 48
(E) 54

Here, we are dealing with two groups of people: men and women. These two groups have different rates of completing a job. We are also told that a certain number of men and women do a part of the job, and we are asked to find the number of additional “men” required to finish the job in a shorter amount of time.

Recall that we have already come across questions where workers start some work and then more workers join in to complete the work before time.

The problem with this question is that we have two types of workers, not just one. So let’s try to simplify the question to a form that we know how to easily solve.

We’ll start by finding the relation between the rate of work done by men and the rate of work done by women. Let’s make the number of men and women the same to find the number of days it will take each group to complete 1 job.

Given: 24 men complete 1 job in 16 days

Given: 32 women complete 1 job in 24 days

So how many days will 24 women take to complete 1 work? (Why 24 women? Because we know how many days 24 men take)

We know how to solve this problem. (It has already been discussed in a past post).

32 women ……………. 1 work ………………. 24 days

24 women ……………. 1 work ………………. ?? days

No. of days taken = 24 * (32/24) = 32 days

Now this is what we have: 24 men take 16 days while 24 women take 32 days

So women take twice the time taken by men to do the same work (32 days vs 16 days). This means the rate of work of women is half the rate of work of men. This means 2 women are equivalent to 1 man i.e. 2 women will do the same work as 1 man does in the same time.

So now, let us replace all women by men so that we have only one type of worker.

Now this is our regular work rate question –

Given: 24 men complete the work in 16 days

Given: 16 men and 16 women work for 12 days

This means that we have 16 men and 8 men work for 12 days

which implies 24 men work for 12 days

We know that 24 men complete the work in 16 days. If they work for 12 days, there are 4 more days to go. But the work has to be completed in 2 days.

24 men …………… 4 days

?? men ……………. 2 days

No of men needed = 24 * (4/2) = 48

So we need 24 additional men to complete the work in 2 days.

Or looking at it another way, 24 men need 16 days to complete the work, so they need another 4 days to complete. But if we want them to complete the work in half the time (2 days), we will need twice the work force. So we need another 24 men.

Answer (B)

Basically, the question involved solving two smaller work-rate problems. Doesn’t seem daunting now, right?

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

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!

GMAT Tip of the Week Is Not A Player, It Just Crushes A Lot

GMAT Tip of the WeekOn this last day of Hip Hop Month in the GMAT Tip of the Week space, let’s talk about the big picture related to your GMAT score with a nod to one of hip hop’s most notorious B-I-Gs: Big Punisher. The “Big Punisher” of your GMAT score – the item that can take what would have been a great day and leave you walking away from the test sobbing “It’s So Hard” (another Big Pun hit…look it up – he had more than one!) – is poor time management.

On a test-taker’s route to a strong section score, there lie a handful of questions that tempt you to devote several fruitless minutes playing around with equations, calculations, and techniques that aren’t working. A few questions later you look at the clock and realize that even though 90% of the problems have gone well for you, you’re several minutes off your target pace…all because of that one big punisher, the question you should have left alone.

Fortunately, Big Punisher has a mantra for you to keep in mind on test day:

“I’m not a player, I just crush a lot”

Meaning, of course, that you’re not the kind of test-taker who aimlessly plays around with the 3-4 “big punisher” questions that will ruin the time you have left for the others. You quickly identify that no one question is worth taking your whole pacing strategy on (as Snoop would say, “I’m too swift on my toes to get caught up with you hos,” hos, of course, being short for “horribly involved problems that I’ll probably get wrong anyway) and bank that time for the many other problems that you’ll crush…a lot.

Functionally that means this: when you realize that you’re more likely wasting time than progressing toward a right answer, cut your losses and move on so that you save the time for the problems that you will undoubtedly get right…as long as you have a reasonable amount of time for them. You might consider paying homage to Big Pun by using his name as a quick mnemonic for your strategic options:

P: Pick Numbers. If the calculations or algebra you’re performing seems to either be going in circles or getting worse, look back and see if you could simply pick numbers instead. This often works when you’re dealing with variables as parts of the answer choices.

U: Use Answer Choices. Again, if you feel like you’re running in circles, check and see if there are clues in the answer choices or if you can plug them in and backsolve directly.

N: Not Worth My Time. And if a quick assessment tells you that you can’t pick numbers or use answer choices, recognize that this problem simply isn’t worth your time, and blow in a guess. Remember: you’re not a player – you won’t let the test bait you into playing with a single crazy question for more than a minute without a direct path to the finish line – so save the time to focus on crushing a lot of problems that you know you can crush.

On your journey to completing entire GMAT sections on time, heed Big Pun’s warning: don’t stop (to play around with questions you already know you’re not getting right), get it, get it – meaning pick up the pace to have meaningful time to spend on the questions you can get. The biggest punisher of what should be high GMAT scores is poor time management, almost always caused by spending far too long on just a few problems. So remember: you’re not a player on those problems…go out there and crush a lot of the problems you know you can crush.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

GMAT Tip of the Week: Make J. Cole One of Your Critical Reasoning Role Modelz

GMAT Tip of the WeekToday, we’re going to discuss how a seemingly random hip-hop lyric relates to boosting your GMAT Score: “Don’t save her; she don’t want to be saved.” – J. Cole, “No Role Modelz”

One of the most common misconceptions that GMAT examinees have about the exam is that, while on quantitative questions, only one answer can be correct and everything else is wrong, on verbal questions “my wrong answer was good, but maybe not the best.” It is critical to realize that on GMAT verbal questions, exactly one answer is right and the other four are fatally flawed and 100% wrong! Visit a GMAT classroom or a GMAT Club forum thread discussing a Critical Reasoning problem, and you’re almost certain to see/hear students protesting for why their wrong answer could be right. “Well but what if the argument said X, would I be right?” “Well but what if instead of “some” it said “most” would it be right then?”

But students love trying to save an incorrect answer to verbal questions, and in particular Critical Reasoning questions. And to an extent that’s understandable: in high school and college, math was always black and white but in “verbal” classes (literature and the arts, history, philosophy…) as long as you could defend your stance or opinion you could be considered “right” even if that opinion differed from that of your professor. You could “save” an incorrect or unpopular position on an issue by finding a way to justify your stance, and in some cases you were even rewarded for proposing and defending an unorthodox, contrarian viewpoint. But on Critical Reasoning problems, remember this important mantra about incorrect answers:

Don’t save her; she don’t want to be saved.

Your job is to attack answer choices, looking for the flaw instead of looking for ways to defend. Each incorrect answer choice is specifically written so that someone will see something redeeming about part of it – otherwise no one would ever pick it and it would be a waste of an answer – so looking for ways to save an answer choice is a fool’s errand. If you’re looking for little things to like about answer choices you should find that in just about every answer choice you see. The operative word in “Critical Reasoning” is critical – you want to be as critical as you can, much like J. Cole is when he discusses his relationships in No Role Modelz.

Consider an example from the Veritas Prep Question Bank:

According to a recent study, employees who bring their own lunches to work take fewer sick days and and are, on average, more productive per hour spent at work than those who eat at the workplace cafeteria. In order to minimize the number of sick days taken by its staff, Boltech Industries plans to eliminate its cafeteria.

Which of the following, if true, provides the most reason to believe that Boltech Industries’ strategy will not accomplish its objective?

A) Boltech’s cafeteria is known for serving a diverse array of healthy lunch options.
B) Because of Boltech’s location, employees who choose to visit a nearby restaurant for lunch will seldom be able to return within an hour.
C) Employees have expressed concern about the cost of dining at nearby restaurants compared with the affordability of the Boltech cafeteria.
D) Employees who bring their lunch from home tend to lead generally healthier lifestyles than those of employees who purchase lunch.
E) Many Boltech employees chose to work for the company in large part because of the generous benefits, such as an on-site cafeteria and fitness center, that Boltech offers.

Less than half of all test-takers get this problem right, in large part because they try to “save” wrong answer choices. The goal of this plan is very clearly stated as “to minimize the number of sick days” but students very frequently pick choices B and E. With B, they try to save it by thinking “but isn’t being away from your desk a long time for a lunch really bad, too?” And the answer may very well be “yes” but the question specifically asks for a reason to think that the strategy will not achieve its objective, and that objective is very clearly stated as pertaining only to sick days.

“Well what if the plan was to minimize time away from employees’s desks?” students love to ask, committed to saving the bad answer choice. While that answer might be “yes,” the even bigger answer is “train yourself to stop trying to save wrong answers!” The study time you expend trying to create a situation in which your wrong answer would be right (“well with E, if the goal were employee retention then it would probably be right”) is time you spend reinforcing a habit that can get you in trouble on test day. Trying to save answers leads you both to wrong answers and to extra time spent on a hard decision, because, again, if your mindset is to look for the good in every answer choice those choices are written to give you something good to find!

So as you study, and especially on test day, heed the wisdom of J. Cole. If you fall into the trap of saving answers, tell the GMAT “fool me one time, shame on you; fool me twice can’t put the blame on you.” But most importantly, as you look at Critical Reasoning answer choices, don’t save her. She don’t want to be saved.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

GMAT Tip of the Week: The Song Remains the Same

Welcome back to hip hop month in the GMAT Tip of the Week space, where we’re constantly asking ourselves, “Wait, where have I heard that before?” If you listen to enough hip hop, you’ll recognize that just about every beat or lyric you hear either samples from or derives from another track that came before it (unless, of course, the artist is Ol’ Dirty Bastard, for whom, as his nickname derives, there ain’t no father to his style).

Biggie’s “Hypnotize” samples directly from “La Di Da Di” (originally by Doug E. Fresh – yep, he’s the one who inspired “The Dougie” that Cali Swag District wants to teach you – and Slick Rick). “Biggie Biggie Biggie, can’t you see, sometimes your words just hypnotize me…” was originally “Ricky, Ricky, Ricky…” And right around the same time, Snoop Dogg and 2Pac just redid the entire song just about verbatim, save for a few brand names.

The “East Coast edit” of Chris Brown’s “Loyal”? French Montana starts his verse straight quoting Jay-Z’s “I Just Wanna Love U” (“I’m a pimp by blood, not relation, I don’t chase ’em, I replace ’em…”), which (probably) borrowed the line “I don’t chase ’em I replace ’em” from a Biggie track, which probably got it from something else. And these are just songs we heard on the radio this morning driving to work…

The point? Hip hop is a constant variation on the same themes, one of the greatest recycling centers the world has ever known.

And so is the GMAT.

Good test-takers – like veteran hip hop heads – train themselves to see the familiar within what looks (or sounds) unique. A hip hop fan often says, “Wait, where I have heard that before?” and similarly, a good test-taker sees a unique, challenging problem and says, “Wait, where have I seen that before?”

And just like you might recite a lyric back and forth in your mind trying to determine where you’ve heard it before, on test day you should recite the operative parts of the problem or the rule to jog your memory and to remind yourself that you’ve seen this concept before.

Is it a remainder problem? Flip through the concepts that you’ve seen during your GMAT prep about working with remainders (“the remainder divided by the divisor gives you the decimals; when the numerator is smaller then the denominator the whole numerator is the remainder…”).

Is it a geometry problem? Think of the rules and relationships that showed up on tricky geometry problems you have studied (“I can always draw a diagonal of a rectangle and create a right triangle; I can calculate arc length from an inscribed angle on a circle by doubling the measure of that angle and treating it like a central angle…”).

Is it a problem that asks for a seemingly-incalculable number? Run through the strategies you’ve used to perform estimates or determine strange number properties on similar practice problems in the past.

The GMAT is a lot like hip hop – just when you think they’ve created something incredibly unique and innovative, you dig back into your memory bank (or click to a jazz or funk station) and realize that they’ve basically re-released the same thing a few times a decade, just under a slightly different name or with a slightly different rhythm.

The lesson?

You won’t see anything truly unique on the GMAT. So when you find yourself stumped, act like the old guy at work when you tell him to listen to a new hip hop song: “Oh I’ve heard this before…and actually when I heard it before in the ’90s, my neighbor told me that she had heard it before in the ’80s…” As you study, train yourself to see the similarities in seemingly-unique problems and see though the GMAT’s rampant plagiarism of itself.

The repetitive nature of the GMAT and of hip hop will likely mean that you’re no longer so impressed by Tyga, but you can use that recognition to be much more impressive to Fuqua.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

Surprising Insights from the 2018 U.S. News Ranking of Top Business Schools: Stanford Drops to #4

US News College RankingsAdmit it: In today’s online world, we just can’t peel ourselves away from top-10 lists of anything! And the world of MBA admissions is certainly no exception. Schools and applicants alike are obsessed with rankings.

In our opinion, the U.S. News & World Report ranking of business schools is the “best” in terms of ranking schools by selectivity in admissions and their reputations in the marketplace. Quite honestly, most MBA candidates are looking for an environment where they’ll be surrounded by incredible peers and where they’ll get the best job upon graduation, so we believe it’s a very good ranking method.

You’ll hear some admissions “gurus” tell people to ignore rankings altogether, but at Veritas Prep, we see an important role for them. If you understand the methodology used behind the rankings, then they can be a helpful first step in your MBA research process. The problems lie when rankings become your first and only step in selecting target schools!

The biggest headline to come out of the 2018 U.S. News & World Report survey of business schools is that perennial powerhouse, Stanford Graduate School of Business, has dropped from #1 to #4 this year. Stanford remains the most selective business school in the world, with an admissions rate of just 6% and an average GMAT score of 733 last year (and the Class of 2018 has a record-breaking 737 GMAT score average!). The average salary and bonus for Stanford MBA graduates is a whopping $153,553 – essentially the same as Harvard’s and just $2K behind Wharton’s. So what happened?!?

Employment is Stanford’s downfall

Stanford’s drop in this year’s rankings was due to two statistics that carry significant weight in the U.S. News Ranking: percentage of students with jobs at graduation and percentage of students with jobs three months after graduation. By all objective measures, Stanford’s performance in this area is abysmal: just 63% of GSB students had jobs at graduation last year, and only 82% were employed three months out. Compare that to the Tuck School at Dartmouth, where 87% of graduates already had a job lined up when they received their diplomas, and 96% had jobs within three months! In fact, Stanford ranks #74 when it comes to jobs at graduation. But, there’s more to the story….

Stanford graduates aren’t just “looking for a job”

The #1 priority of students at most MBA programs is to have a job once they graduate. During my time at Kellogg, for example, job offers were always greeted with the greatest celebration and the lack of them caused the greatest stress among my colleagues. One’s entire 2nd year might be dedicated to the pursuit of a job offer. However, Stanford GSB students tend to be different than just about anybody else – they aren’t just looking for a job; they’re looking to change the world…TODAY. “Pursue your dreams” is a mantra drilled into Stanford MBAs from the moment they step onto its Spanish Colonial-inspired campus.

As a result, in our analysis, we’ve found that fewer Stanford students are looking for “traditional” post-MBA jobs than at any other top-tier institution. It has the highest percentage of students who pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures upon graduation, although these students who report that they are starting their own business do not impact the school’s reported employment statistics.

In addition, more Stanford grads are willing to be patient to find just the right position to enable them to make a big impact in their chosen profession, industry, society, or the world. Armed with a Stanford MBA, they recognize that they can get a job eventually, so they tend not to worry about whether that’s before graduation or several months after.

In short, the U.S. News statistics expose a growing trend at Stanford to be extremely picky when it comes to job offers. However, it doesn’t properly capture what U.S. News is trying to show through the data, which is the availability of job opportunities for graduates of each program. Stanford grads have at least as many job opportunities as graduates from any other global MBA program, so this drop in the rankings should not deter any candidate from applying.

ASU Carey jumps 10 spots after offering free tuition

In our opinion, the biggest news from this year’s U.S. News rankings comes from Arizona State’s W.P. Carey School of Business. Jumping 10 spots in one year, Carey has landed a spot in the top-25 for the first time ever. Outside of the top-25, it’s not entirely uncommon for a school to jump or slide 10 or more spots in one year, but this news comes on the heels of some major innovations at the Carey MBA program.

Most notably, the school announced in 2015 that it would make its full-time MBA program tuition-free for 100% of students. As you can imagine, the prospect of free tuition sent applicants in droves to the school, driving down its admission rate to just 14% – this makes Carey one of the most selective MBA programs in the country, ahead of Wharton, Kellogg, Tuck, and Booth.

The school’s admissions stats, such as average GMAT and GPA, improved dramatically, as did it’s yield—71% of admitted applicants chose to attend, far stronger than most top MBA programs. It’s employment statistics are equally impressive, with 79% of students landing a job before they don their graduation caps and robes, and 95% securing work within three months. Not bad!

Arizona State University grabbed the #1 spot in the U.S. News’ 2018 ranking of the nation’s most innovative colleges and universities (Stanford is #2 and MIT is #3). Before we learned of Carey’s parent institution’s honor in the ranking, Veritas Prep had also dubbed ASU’s business school as the most innovative, as not only did the school drop its tuition for the full-time MBA program, but it also merged with Thunderbird School of Global Management, long known as the top international business school in the world (though it had struggled in recent years).

Additionally, Carey’s online MBA program is one of the nation’s top online schools, and the university continues to expand its online offerings. While we wouldn’t be surprised if the offer of free tuition doesn’t last more than a couple of years, we believe ASU’s Carey School is the up-and-coming business school to watch.

What do you think of the 2018 MBA rankings? Let us know in the comments below!

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

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

Deciding Between the SAT and ACT: Which Test is Right for You?

scottbloomdecisionsChoosing the right standardized test for you can make an enormous difference to your college application experience: working with subjects you’re more comfortable with and being tested on a skill set that better matches your own strengths, can greatly ease your study burden and boost your chances of a strong score.

The SAT and ACT are structurally and functionally similar, but their content differs in significant ways that can be used to a student’s advantage. Here are a few things to consider when choosing between the ACT and the SAT:

Similarities Between the SAT and ACT

Let’s start with what these two tests have in common. They take about the same amount of time to complete, and are equally popular test choices in the United States. They require both qualitative and quantitative skills, and each have four sections plus an optional essay. Colleges weigh the ACT sand SAT equally – you won’t be penalized for choosing either exam over the other, so many students choose to take both and submit whichever test they perform better on. All U.S. colleges accept scores from both tests.

Differences Between the SAT and ACT

The main difference between the SAT and the ACT is their content – choose the exam that tests your strongest skills. The SAT is more qualitatively oriented in that it has Reading, Writing, and Math sections, while the ACT is more quantitatively oriented in that it has English, Math, and Science sections. ACT English passages tend to be at an easier reading level than SAT Reading passages, but ACT Math typically contains more trigonometry questions than SAT Math.

The ACT also includes a science section, although ACT Science questions focus on a student’s ability to comprehend and evaluate given scientific information and hypotheses, rather than on his or her outside knowledge of scientific concepts. You won’t need to remember everything you learned in Biology, Chemistry, or Physics class for this exam, but you will need to know how to understand those concepts when they are explained to you using common scientific vocabulary words.

The Optional Essays

Both tests include an optional essay, but these take very different forms. The ACT essay asks you to evaluate and analyze a complex issue. You are given three perspectives on a worldly, relevant question – like the implications of automation for history – and asked to discuss your own perspective on the issue relative to at least one of the given perspectives. The ACT essay favors those with strong logic, debate, and discussion skills. Test-takers are also asked to use reasoning and outside examples to support their arguments, so a strong knowledge of history, literature, and/or current events can come in handy.

The SAT essay, on the other hand, tests comprehension of a source text, and is a good choice for those with strong reading comprehension, interpretation, and critical analysis skills. Test-takers are given a passage to read and asked to examine the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and stylistic or persuasive elements. Strong SAT essays typically include references to and explanations of literary concepts like allusion, rhetorical language, and anecdote, so a strong knowledge of English literary components and concepts is also useful.

How to Decide Whether to Take the SAT or ACT

The best way to determine which test is better for you is to take at least one official ACT practice test, and at least one official SAT practice test. (I’ll emphasize official – you want to ensure that your practice session is as representative of the real thing as possible, and a copycat practice test won’t achieve that.)

If you still can’t decide between the two exams, or if you take one and realize you might have done better on the other, recognize that there’s no penalty if you officially sit both the SAT and the ACT. The SAT and ACT are operated by different organizations, so reporting your SAT scores to colleges won’t automatically send your ACT scores to them too, and vice versa. If you take both tests, you can choose to report scores for just one exam – whichever one you do better on. (Keep in mind, though, that some colleges require you to submit all scores you’ve received from each test, so if you’ve officially sat three SAT’s, you’ll have to report all three scores, not just your best one.)

It’s best to devote your energy to just one test out of the two, but ultimately, you can’t really go wrong when choosing between the SAT and the ACT. Apart from the test fees and studying time spent, there is no cost to taking both exams. Play to your strengths by choosing the test with content that better fits your skills, but don’t worry about choosing wrong – you can always change your mind later on! The best option is to start your test prep early in your high school career, in order to give yourself time to explore both tests and to switch to the other one if you need to.

Still need help deciding whether to take the SAT or ACT (or both)? Check out Veritas Prep’s free SAT vs. ACT Comparison Tool to determine which exam is right for you. And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Courtney Tran, a Veritas Prep college admissions consultant and 99th percentile SAT and ACT instructor. 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.

3.14 Reasons to Love Pi

Pie ChartEvery March 14, numerically expressed as 3/14, math nerds and test prep instructors celebrate the time-honored tradition of “Pi Day,” deriving plenty of happiness from the fact that the date looks like the number 3.14, the approximation of π. Pi (π) is, of course, the lynchpin value in all circle calculations. The area of a circle is π(r^2), and the circumference of a circle is 2πr or πd.

As you study for a major standardized test, you know that you’ll be working with circles at some point, so here are 3.14 reasons that you should learn to love the number π:

1) Pi should make you salivate.
On any standardized test question, if you see the value π, whether in the question itself of in the answer choices, that π tells you that you’re dealing with a circle. Some test questions disguise what they want you to do – you may have to draw in a triangle to find the diagonal of a square, for example – but circle problems cannot hide from you! π is a dead giveaway that you’re dealing with a circle, so like Pavlov’s Dog, when you see that signal, π, you should respond with a biological response and conjure up all your knowledge of circles immediately.

2) Pi can be easily cut into slices.
Whether you’re dealing with a section of the area of a circle or a section of the circumference (arc length), the fact that a circle is perfectly symmetrical makes the job of cutting that circle into slices an easy one. With arc length, all you end up doing is using the central angle to determine the proportion of that section (angle/360 = proportion of what you want), making it very easy to slice up a circle using π. With the area of a section, as long as the arms of that section are equal to the radius of the circle, you can do the exact same thing. Just like an apple pie or pizza pie, if you’re cutting into slices from the center of the circle, cutting that pie into slices is a relatively simple task.

3) You can take your pi to go.
You will almost never have to calculate the value of pi on a standardized test: almost always, the symbol π will appear in the answer choices (e.g. 5π, 7π, etc.), meaning that you can just carry π through your calculations and bring it with you to the answer choices. If, for example, you need to calculate the area of a circle with radius 3, you’ll plug the radius into your formula [π(3^2)] and just end up with 9π, which you’ll find in the answer choices. With most other symbols (x, y, r, etc.) you’ll need to do some work to turn them into numbers. Pi is great because you can take it to go.

3.14) The decimals in pi are just a sliver.
If you ever are asked to “calculate” pi (which typically means that the question is asking you to approximate a value, not to directly calculate it), you can use the fact that the .14 in 3.14 is a tiny sliver of a decimal. For example, if you had to estimate a value for 5π, 5 times 3 is clearly 15, but 5 times .14 is so small that it won’t require you to go all the way to 16. So if your answer choices were 15.7, 16.1, 16.4, etc., you could rely on the fact that the decimal .14 is so small that you can eliminate all the 16s.

Other irrational numbers like the square root of 2 and square root of 3 have decimal places more in the neighborhood of .5, so you will probably need to work a little harder to estimate how they’ll react when you multiply them even by relatively small numbers. But π’s decimals come in small slivers, allowing you to manage your calculations in bite size pieces.

So remember – there are 3.14 (and counting) reasons to love pi, and learning to love pi can help turn your test day into a piece of cake.

Are you getting ready to take the SAT, ACT, GMAT or GRE? Check out our website for a variety of helpful test prep resources. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Beware of Assumption in GMAT Critical Reasoning Options

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomSometimes, while evaluating the answer choices in in strengthen/weaken questions, we unknowingly go beyond the options and make assumptions about what they may imply if we were to have additional pieces of data. What we have to remember is that we do not have this additional information – we have to judge each option on its own merits, only. Let’s discuss this in detail with one of our own practice GMAT questions:

In 2009, a private school spent $200,000 on a building which housed classrooms, offices, and a library. In 2010, the school was unable to turn a profit. Therefore, the principal should be fired.

Each of the following, if true, weakens the author’s conclusion EXCEPT:

(A) The principal was hired primarily for her unique ability to establish a strong sense of community, which many parents cited as a quality that kept children enrolled in the school longer.
(B) The new library also features a seating area big enough for all students to participate in cultural arts performances, which the head of school intends to schedule more frequently now.
(C) The principal was hired when the construction of the new building was almost completed.
(D) A significant number of families left the school in 2010 because a favourite teacher retired.
(E) More than half of the new families who joined the school in 2010 cited the beautiful new school facility as an important factor in their selection of the school.

This is a weaken/exception question, so four of the five answer choices will weaken the argument, while the fifth option (which will be the correct answer) will either not have any impact on the argument or it might even strengthen it. As we know, such questions require a bit more effort to answer, since four of the five options will definitely be relevant to the argument. The important thing is to focus on what we are given and not assume what the various answer options may or may not lead to. Let’s understand this:

The gist of the argument:

  • Last year, a lot of money was spent to construct a new building with many amenities.
  • This year, the school did not see a profit.
  • Hence, fire the principal.

Based on the two given facts – “a lot of money was spent to make the building in 2009” and “the school did not see a profit in 2010” – the author has decided to fire the principal. Many pieces of information could weaken his stance. For example:

  • It was not the principal’s decision to construct the building.
  • The school’s revenue in 2010 took a hit because of some other factor.
  • The school’s losses reduced by a huge amount in 2010 and the probability of it seeing a profit in 2011 is high.

Information such as this could improve the principal’s case to stay. We know that for this particular question, there will only be one option that does not help the principal.

You will have to choose the answer choice which, with the given information, does not help the principal’s case. Let’s look at the options now:

(A) The principal was hired primarily for her unique ability to establish a strong sense of community, which many parents cited as a quality that kept children enrolled in the school longer.

With this answer choice, we see that the principal was hired not to increase school profits, but for another critical purpose. Perhaps the school’s finance department is in charge of worrying about profits, and so the head of that department needs to be fired! This answer choice makes a strong case for keeping the principal, and hence, weakens the author’s argument.

(B) The new library also features a seating area big enough for all students to participate in cultural arts performances, which the head of school intends to schedule more frequently now.

If true, this statement would have no impact on whether or not the principal should be fired. It describes an amenity provided by the new building and how it will be used – it neither strengthens nor weakens the principal’s case to stay, hence, this is the correct answer choice. But let’s look at the rest of the options too, just to be safe:

(C) The principal was hired when the construction of the new building was almost completed.

This tells us that the new building was not her decision. So if it did not have the desired effect, she cannot be blamed for it. So it again helps her case.

(D) A significant number of families left the school in 2010 because a favourite teacher retired.

This answer choice shows that there was another reason behind the school’s loss in profit. The construction of the building could still be a good idea that leads to future profits, which the principal’s case and weakens the author’s argument.

(E) More than half of the new families who joined the school in 2010 cited the beautiful new school facility as an important factor in their selection of the school.

For some reason, this is the answer choice that often trips up students. They feel that it doesn’t help the principal’s case – that because the new building attracts students, if there are losses, it means that the loss is due to a fault with the new building, and thus, the principal is at fault. But note that we are assuming a lot to arrive at that conclusion. All we are told is that the new building is attracting students. This means the new building is serving its purpose – it is generating extra revenue. The fact that the school is still experiencing losses could be explained by many different reasons.

Since the author’s decision to fire the principal is based solely on the premise that a lot of money was spent to construct the new building, which now seems to serve no purpose (because the school experienced losses), this answer choice certainly weakens the argument. The option tells us that the principal’s decision to make the building was justified, so it helps her case to stay with the school.

After examining each answer choice, we can see that the answer is clearly B. Remember, in Critical Reasoning questions it is crucial to come to conclusions only based on the facts that are given – creating assumptions based on information that is not given can lead you to fall in a Testmaker trap.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

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!

The GRE Exam for Law School?

Law School ImagesHarvard Law is the oldest continually-operating law school in the United States. It is consistently ranked as one of the top law schools in the world, and is also the largest law school in the U.S., with about as many students as Yale, Stanford and Chicago combined. So when Harvard Law makes news other law schools are likely to follow.

And Harvard Law recently announced some big news: starting next fall the GRE exam will be accepted as an alternative to the LSAT exam. Surveys suggest that nearly half of all law schools were not opposed to accepting GRE exam scores even before Harvard made its announcement, so this is probably just the beginning of a trend.

The upshot of all of this is that beginning next fall those prospective law students applying to Harvard Law can submit a GRE score instead of, or in addition to, an LSAT score. The University of Arizona Law School has already begun accepting the GRE score from applicants, and if the results from those law schools are as positive as expected, then additional law schools will likely join them in the very near future.

LSAT vs. GRE

I have taught the LSAT and currently teach the GRE and (as well as the GMAT), and have earned a perfect 170/170 on the GRE and a near-perfect 176 on the LSAT. Here are my thoughts on the LSAT versus the GRE:

The LSAT has long been the dreaded gatekeeper to law school admissions and the exam definitely rewards a certain type of test taker with a certain background. So, should you consider taking the GRE instead of the LSAT? Maybe you should!

First, who does not benefit from this development? Those who plan on applying exclusively to law school in the next couple of years should stick with the LSAT to have the most flexibility in the application process. As Harvard and Arizona are currently the only law schools that accept GRE scores from applicants, you’ll want to have a good LSAT score under your belt in case you decide to apply to any other JD programs.

Everyone else should at least consider the GRE. The Dean of Harvard Law School, Martha Minow, listed a few of the groups of students who might benefit from being able to use the GRE instead of the LSAT: “international students, multidisciplinary scholars, and joint-degree students…” I would add to that list students who have strong math skills, who have different possible career paths, or who have less time to devote to the process of preparing for an exam.

Advantages of Taking the GRE

Flexibility: The GRE is accepted for admission to nearly all graduate and business schools in addition to Harvard Law School and Arizona Law School (and hopefully a growing list of law schools). For anyone considering a variety of career options, the GRE is the best exam to take as it gives the test-taker the most flexibility. Even a great GMAT score is not accepted by law schools or graduate schools, and a perfect LSAT score will not get you into business or grad school. The GRE is the universal key that can open many doors – this is the number one reason to make the GRE your first choice.

Time Commitment: For many students, the LSAT is the exam that requires the most hours of preparation. The sheer variety of critical reasoning questions and “logic games” requires a student to master a huge range of information. On the other hand, the GRE tests skills that a student is more likely to possess already or can learn more readily through a preparation course or self-study. This is not to say that the GRE is not a challenge, it just may be a more reasonable challenge than the LSAT.

Credit for Your Strengths: Maybe you are strong in Quantitative areas… This can give you an important head start on the GRE, as math is not tested on the LSAT.

Convenience: The GRE is offered in convenient locations around the world on a continuous basis, with times generally available in the morning, afternoon and evening, making it easy to fit the GRE into your schedule. By comparison, the LSAT exam is only offered 4 times per year, usually at 8:00am. With the LSAT, you have to arrange your life around the exam, which can be difficult for test-takers with busy schedules.

Reasonable Retakes: If for any reason you do not earn the LSAT score that you hoped for, then you have to wait anywhere from two to four months before you can retake the exam. On the other hand, you can retake the GRE after just 21 days and you can take the exam 5 times in a year.

Advantages of Taking the LSAT

No Math Required: The LSAT exclusively tests skills that fall on the “Verbal” side of the GRE, meaning that you won’t have to memorize the Pythagorean Theorem, practice working with algebra, or brush up on your multiplication tables before you take it.  If you’re a student who hasn’t studied math in a while, the LSAT allows you to engage your logical thinking (philosophy, political science, literature) brain without having to dig back into high school math skills.

Applicable to All Law School Applications: While what Harvard says typically filters down to nearly all schools eventually, right now the GRE is only accepted at a few law schools.  If you plan to take the GRE to apply to Harvard and a few other elite JD programs, you’ll end up having to take the LSAT for those other applications, anyway.

Availability of Official Practice Problems: The LSAT has been administering essentially the same exam for decades, and has to retire its questions after each administration. The result? It has thousands of official exam questions to sell you for practice.  By comparison the GRE underwent an overhaul in 2011 and has some official test questions for sale, but the LSAT provides several times as much authentic practice material.

Is the GRE Easier Than the LSAT?

It is not easy to get into Harvard or any of the other top law schools. The average LSAT score for the most recent class at Harvard Law is above the 99th percentile, so an applicant’s GRE score would need to be near-perfect to be competitive.

Please understand that if you do plan to take the GRE for admission to law school, business school, or a competitive graduate school program, you will need to earn the best score that you are capable of achieving. Taking the GRE is not a short cut or an “easy way” to get into a top law school (or business school). But it is another option and – for some people – a better option.

My advice is this: Unless you are committed to applying to law school in the next couple of years, consider taking the GRE. The GRE gives you the most options (graduate school, business school, law school) and its scores are reportable for 5 years. This means that if you take the GRE this year your scores will still be good for applications submitted in 2022.

Considering taking the GRE? Register to attend one of our upcoming free online GRE Strategy Sessions to jump start your GRE prep, or check out our variety of GRE Course and Private Tutoring options. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

David Newland has scored in the 99th percentile on both the LSAT and the GMAT, and holds a perfect 170/170 score on the GRE.  He taught the LSAT for nearly ten years for a leading firm, and has taught the GRE and GMAT for Veritas Prep since 2006.  In 2008 he was named Veritas Prep’s Worldwide Instructor of the Year, and he has been a senior contributor to the Veritas Prep GRE and GMAT lesson materials. David holds a Juris Doctorate from the University of Michigan Law School and teaches live online classes from a film studio in northern Vermont.

GMAT Tip of the Week: Big Sean Says Your GMAT Score Will Bounce Back

Welcome back to Hip Hop Month in the GMAT Tip of the Week space, where naturally, we woke up in beast mode (with your author legitimately wishing he was bouncing back to D-town from LAX this weekend, but blog duty calls!).

If you have a car stereo or Pandora account, you’ve undoubtedly heard Big Sean talking about bouncing back this month. “Bounce Back” is a great anthem for anyone hitting a rough patch – at work, in a relationship, after a rough day for your brackets during next week’s NCAA tournament – but this isn’t a self-help, “it’s always darkest before dawn,” feel-good article. Big Sean has some direct insight into the GMAT scoring algorithm with Bounce Back, and if you pay attention, you can leverage Bounce Back (off the album “I Decided” – that’ll be important, too) to game-plan your test day strategy and increase your score.

So, what’s Big Sean’s big insight?

The GMAT scoring (and question delivery) algorithm is designed specifically so that you can “take an L” and bounce back. And if you understand that, you can budget your time and focus appropriately. The test is designed so that just about everybody misses multiple questions – the adaptive system serves you problems that should test your upper threshold of ability, and can also test your lower limit if you’re not careful.

What does that mean? Say you, as Big Sean would say, “take an L” (or a loss) on a question. That’s perfectly fine…everyone does it. The next question should be a bit easier, providing you with a chance to bounce back. The delivery system is designed to use the test’s current estimate of your ability to deliver you questions that will help it refine that estimate, meaning that it’s serving you questions that lie in a difficulty range within a few percentile points of where it thinks you’re scoring.

If you “take an L” on a problem that’s even a bit below your true ability, missing a question or two there is fine as long as it’s an outlier. No one question is a perfect predictor of ability, so any single missed question isn’t that big of a deal…if you bounce back and get another few questions right in and around that range, the system will continue to test your upper threshold of ability and give you chances to prove that the outlier was a fluke.

The problem comes when you don’t bounce back. This doesn’t mean that you have to get the next question right, but it does mean that you can’t afford big rough patches – a run of 3 out of 4 wrong or 4 out of 5 wrong, for example. At that point, the system’s estimate of you has to change (your occasional miss isn’t an outlier anymore) and while you can still bounce back, you now run the risk of running out of problems to prove yourself. As the test serves you questions closer to its new estimate of you, you’re not using the problems to “prove how good you are,” but instead having to spend a few problems proving you’re “not that bad, I promise!”

So, okay. Great advice – “don’t get a lot of problems wrong.” Where’s the real insight? It can be found in the lyrics to “Bounce Back”:

Everything I do is righteous
Betting on me is the right risk
Even in a ***** crisis…

During the test you have to manage your time and effort wisely, and that means looking at hard questions and determining whether betting on that question is the right risk. You will get questions wrong, but you also control how much you let any one question affect your ability to answer the others correctly. A single question can hurt your chances at the others if you:

  • Spend too much time on a problem that you weren’t going to get right, anyway
  • Let a problem get in your head and distract you from giving the next one your full attention and confidence

Most test-takers would be comfortable on section pacing if they had something like 3-5 fewer questions to answer, but when they’re faced with the full 37 Quant and 41 Verbal problems they feel the need to rush, and rushing leads to silly mistakes (or just blindly guessing on the last few problems). And when those silly mistakes pile up and become closer to the norm than to the outlier, that’s when your score is in trouble.

You can avoid that spiral by determining when a question is not the right risk! If you recognize in 30-40 seconds (or less) that you’re probably going to take an L, then take that L quickly (put in a guess and move on) and bank the time so that you can guarantee you’ll bounce back. You know you’re taking at least 5 Ls on each section (for most test-takers, even in the 700s that number is probably closer to 10) so let yourself be comfortable with choosing to take 3-4 Ls consciously, and strategically bank the time to ensure that you can thoroughly get right the problems that you know you should get right.

Guessing on the GMAT doesn’t have to be a panic move – when you know that the name of the game is giving yourself the time and patience to bounce back, a guess can summon Big Sean’s album title, “I Decided,” as opposed to “I screwed up.” (And if you need proof that even statistics PhDs who wrote the GMAT scoring algorithm need some coaching with regard to taking the L and bouncing back, watch the last ~90 seconds of this video.)

So, what action items can you take to maximize your opportunity to bounce back?

Right now: pay attention to the concepts, question types, and common problem setups that you tend to waste time on and get wrong. Have a plan in mind for test day that “if it’s this type of problem and I don’t see a path to the finish line quickly, I’m better off taking the L and making sure I bounce back on the next one.”

Also, as you review those types of problems in your homework and practice tests, look for techniques you can use to guess intelligently. For many, combinatorics with restrictions is one of those categories for which they often cannot see a path to a correct answer. Those problems are easy to guess on, however! Often you can eliminate a choice or two by looking at the number of possibilities that would exist without the restriction (e.g. if Remy and Nicki would just patch up their beef and stand next to each other, there would be 120 ways to arrange the photo, but since they won’t the number has to be less than 120…). And you can also use that total to ask yourself, “Does the restriction take away a lot of possibilities or just a few?” and get a better estimate of the remaining choices.

On test day: Give yourself 3-4 “I Decided” guesses and don’t feel bad about them. If your experience tells you that betting your time and energy on a question is not the right risk, take the L and use the extra time to make sure you bounce back.

The GMAT, like life, guarantees that you’ll get knocked down a few times, but what you can control is how you respond. Accept the fact that you’re going to take your fair share of Ls, but if you’re a real one you know how to bounce back.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.