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Digging For Clues In Answer Choices on the GMAT

Submitted By Scott Shrum, Veritas Prep Director of Admissions

While many people view their GMAT study process as a trip down memory lane, reviewing algebra and geometry formulas from their junior high and high school days, it is important to remember that the G.M. in GMAT stands for “Graduate Management.”  Although most of the skills tested on the GMAT come from your teenage years, many of the thought processes that are rewarded come from your more recent – and stand to predict your future – business experience.

One extremely important set of those skills relates to leveraging assets – picking up on clues embedded within problems and leaning on those clues to help you achieve objectives.  And a place where you can improve upon that ability is the answer choices beneath Problem Solving problems.

By this point in your academic career you should know that you can “backsolve” problems by plugging in answer choices to the problem to see if they fit.  But a newer skill that commonly leads to success on the GMAT is looking at the answer choices to get an idea of what the correct answer should look like.  While many answer choices cannot be easily plugged in or eliminated through process-of-elimination, they can often help you determine your first step toward solving the problem. Consider the example:

What is (100,016)(99,984)?

(A)   1010 – 26
(B)   1010 – 27
(C)   1010 – 28
(D)   1010 – 29
(E)    (1010)(26)

While your first move might be to scramble for a calculator (which isn’t allowed on the test), you should notice a clue in the answer choices – all five answer choices involve 10 to the 10th power and 2 to an exponent.  Your goal is set for you – you have to find a way to take what you are given and create 1010 out of it.  What are your tools to do so?  Well, look at the first four answer choices, which all involve two exponents subtracted – that looks a lot like the “Difference of Squares” rule:  x2 – y2 = (x + y)(x – y).  Given that, you can rephrase the question as:

What is (105 + 16)(105 – 16)?

And since you know you need two to an exponent, you can rephrase the 16s as 24.  Now you have:

What is (105 + 24)(105 – 24)?

And that, given your knowledge of Difference of Squares, will look exactly like answer choice C.

More important than this example, however, is what you can learn from it.  Especially when answer choices involve large numbers and/or algebra, they are often extremely useful as clues to help you determine how to approach the math.  Sometimes your goal is to make the question look like the answers, and the clues embedded within the answer choices are essential parts of getting to work on that goal.  The GMAT rewards you for leveraging assets, so recognize that the answer choices are often assets in differing ways:

  • Numbers that you can plug back into the problem
  • Answers that you can eliminate via process of elimination
  • Clues as to what your “finished” math should look like (as in the example above)
  • Clues as to what type of number the right answer needs to be (Odd? Even? Negative?)
  • Far enough apart that you can estimate using easier values (for example, if you’re between answer choices like 279 and 319, try 300 and see if you need a higher or lower number than that)

The GMAT isn’t multiple-choice by accident – sure, it is easier to score, but it also sets up for questions that reward those who can leverage unseen assets.  Be sure to recognize those assets and put them to work.

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Mastering Common GMAT Sentence Structure

Submitted By Scott Shrum, Veritas Prep Chief Operating Officer

The GMAT is a challenging test that requires some high-level reasoning abilities.  But it also has a dirty little secret: some questions are actually relatively easy.  And when those easy questions show up, you need to be prepared to capitalize quickly and efficiently to boost your score and save time for more challenging material.  One such question type is not only easy to answer, but also easy to recognize.

With GMAT Sentence Correction, you should recognize that certain sentence structures require strict parallel structure.  One such case involves structures that set up a relationship between two parts of a sentence, using the structures:

  • Not only…but also
  • Just as…so
  • Either…or
  • Neither…nor
  • Not…but
  • Both…and

When these structures appear, you will almost always be able to eliminate multiple answer choices because they will botch the necessary parallelism between the two portions on either side of the phrase.  Consider these two statements:

  • Parallel structure questions can be not only easy to solve but also easy to recognize.
  • Parallel structure questions can be not only easy to solve but can also be easy to recognize.

What’s the difference?  The second example is incorrect as it is not parallel.  Parallel structure in these questions requires that:

  1. Whatever comes immediately before the first “dividing” structure (in this case “not only”) applies to both of the two portions, one after “not only” and the other after “but also”
  2.  Whatever comes immediately after the and/or/but second part of the structure must be directly parallel to what comes immediately after the first part of the structure.

Which is a long way of saying that, in the second example above, the “but can also be easy…” is wrong because:

  1. “can be” already applies to the second portion because it came before the “dividing” structure, “not only”
  2. Relatedly, “can be” isn’t parallel to “easy” – because the first portion begins with an adjective, the second should, too.

So how can you use this strategically?  Be on the lookout for these structures and know the knee-jerk rules for testing them.

“We hope that you found this article to be both useful and to be clear” is wrong – “to be” sits before “both”, so it already applies to both portions of the construction.

“We hope that you’ll neither forget these rules nor struggle to employ them” is correct, as “forget” (after the dividing term “neither”) and “struggle” (after the structural term “nor”) are parallel verbs.

Master these structures and the rules for attacking them on Sentence Correction questions and you’ll be both more successful and more efficient.  And that, my friends, is a correct statement.

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Choosing Which Graduate School to Attend

Submitted By Stephen Round, Executive Director, Round One Admissions Consulting Co., Ltd. (“R1″),

First posted on February 15, 2015

Some of you who applied in the first application rounds last fall have already been admitted to several MBA programs, but are still waiting to hear the results from your second round applications. Therefore, you’ll have some decisions to make in the weeks ahead regarding which graduate school you will choose to attend. In the process of making your decision, you should consider several factors, just as you did when you were deciding which programs to include in your Application Portfolio last year.

Class size: Some MBA programs, such as Harvard Business School, have very large classes consisting of almost a thousand students. Although large class sizes (i.e. the number of people earning the MBA degree in a certain year) provide an advantage in terms of connecting students to large networks of people, including MBA students and alumni, some students claim that it’s difficult to become familiar with classmates and faculty members in such MBA programs. These people might feel more comfortable at a business school with a smaller class size consisting of a few hundred students, such as the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. One of the advantages of programs with smaller class sizes is that it’s generally easier to become familiar with students and to build closer relationships with faculty. When an MBA program only has a few hundred students, people will be more likely to remember your name and face during, and after, the program!

Location: Certain MBA students prefer to study in large cities like New York and Los Angeles, which are home to the outstanding MBA programs of Columbia Business School and the Anderson School at UCLA, respectively, among others. Some of the advantages of living in such metropolitan areas include excellent public transportation systems, a wide variety of entertainment options, and easy access to Fortune 500 companies. Nevertheless, some people who have spent most of their lives in huge cities like Tokyo see the downside of these locations, such as higher living expenses and crowded spaces. If you are one of these people, you might prefer to study in a college town type of environment, such as Ithaca or Evanston, home to Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, respectively. Single MBA students may prefer to choose schools in urban areas, whereas those with families may gravitate toward universities in college town settings. In any case, you should choose the environment that’s the best fit for you (and your family), based on your own unique and specific priorities.

Costs: If you are one of the fortunate MBA applicants whose company sponsors your graduate studies abroad and will pay for your education and other expenses that you will incur overseas, then cost might not seem like an important factor for you. However, there has recently been an increasing trend among companies that sponsor MBA applicants in that many have required their MBA Scholarship winners to sign agreements to repay their organization for the expense of their MBA education in the event that they leave the company within a specific time period following their graduation. Therefore, cost might be more important than you think. Of course, if you’re a private-sponsored MBA applicant, then you’re probably quite conscious of the costs associated with your MBA education already. Keep in mind that public schools, such as the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, tend to be a bit less expensive than private schools, such as New York University’s Stern School of Business. Also, remember that there are some financial aid programs available to international students, so be sure to check with the schools to which you have been accepted to see if they can assist you. We expect that that some of you will scholarships this year and wish you all the best with that! J

Placement Success: In R1’s opinion, the ultimate measure of a graduate school is its ability to find jobs for its graduates. After all, that’s why so many people, like many of you, make such an extraordinary effort to gain admission into the top-ranked and most highly-reputed graduate programs. While company-sponsored applicants need not concern themselves so much with their chosen school’s placement success since they will return to their organizations, those of you private-sponsored applicants who plan to hunt for new jobs should pay special attention to the placement success of the schools to which you have been accepted. R1 strongly advises you not to accept the advertised placement success rates at face value. Remember that the majority of a business school’s placement resources are spent on supporting “domestic” students. Therefore, if you’re a private-sponsored “international” student in need of a job following your graduation, then you should carefully research the schools to which you have been accepted in order to determine what resources and support systems are available to assist international students searching for jobs in your home country. Furthermore, you should ask alumni of those schools how they found their first post-graduation positions back home. If you plan to find a new job after graduating, then R1’s advice is for you to be very proactive in your employment search. The early bird gets the worm!

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Interview Prep Part 2

Submitted By The Red Pen – University & MBA Admissions Advising

A few weeks ago I wrote a column about preparing for interviews. After talking to a few people who have gone through the process, I realize that my advice needs some more detail. Here are some specific questions that you might expect in college, MBA or scholarship interviews.

What are your strength and weaknesses?/what words would people use to describe you?/what about you is unique?

These are all variations on the same question. And each of them is aimed at discovering how well you know yourself and what king of introspection you have done. Of course whatever you give, you will need to expand on it. If you say your strength is “motivating others,” then you will need to give an example of an occasion where you convinced a group of people to do something.

Read more about Interview Prep Part 2 by clicking here.

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How to Master MBA Interviews

Submitted By Stacy Blackman, Stacy Blackman Consulting

‘Tis the season for interviews! This is the most unpredictable portion of the MBA application process, since every interviewer is different. The same interviewer may even react differently depending on his or her mood that day. For the lucky round one MBA applicants who have been invited to interview by their target business schools, here are several tips for preparing and guidance in what to expect.

The role of the interview varies by program, so if possible, reach out to your network of current or former students at the school for an insider perspective. Most MBA programs will offer the option to interview on campus or with a local alumni volunteer. You should make your decision based on your personal needs, rather than on the basis of how it may look to the admissions committee.

Read more about How to Master MBA Interviews by clicking here.

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Top 5 Things You Should Always Do For An Interview – Part 1

Submitted By The Red Pen – University & MBA Admissions Advising

Interview season is upon us. Some early applicants have already had interviews, while others are preparing for calls after the new year. Top 5 things you should always do for an academic interview.

Take a clean copy of your current resume
There are several reasons to do this. First off, it gives you something to do when you walk into the interview and it makes you look prepared. Second, it gives the interviewer a reference point from which to start asking questions.

Read more about Top 5 Things You Should Do For An Interview - Part 1 by clicking here.

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MBA Waitlist Strategy

Submitted By Hillary Schubach. Shine MBA Admissions Consulting

You’ve turned in an excellent MBA application.  Unfortunately, the news was disappointing: you’ve been waitlisted. Being on the waitlist can feel like a rejection, but don’t be discouraged. All hope is not lost.

A spot on the waitlist means the admissions committee liked something they saw in you; this is positive feedback!  And every year, business schools admit people from their waitlists.  Here’s how you can best position yourself for a spot in the class.

Read more about MBA Waitlist Strategy by clicking here.

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What to Do if You’re Waitlisted

Submitted By Stacy Blackman, Stacy Blackman Consulting

All MBA applicants wait anxiously to hear final decisions from the programs they’ve applied to. For some b-school prospectives, however, that date comes and goes—and they’re still waiting. They’ve been waitlisted.

If you’ve been rolled over from a Round 1 waitlist, have recently been informed that you were neither accepted nor denied at one of your Round 2 schools, or get this same news in the coming weeks from a program that hasn’t notified applicants yet, your first question might be, “Well, now what?”

Read more about What to Do if You’re Waitlisted by clicking here.

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5-Step Checklist Before Submitting Your Applications

Submitted By Accepted

Whether you’re applying to b-school, law school, med school, grad school, or college, this checklist will be the same. Don’t hit that “submit” button until you’ve completed the following 5 steps:

1.  You’ve made sure that your application presents a holistic, multi-dimensional picture of you.

Each section of your application should not just present you as a strong candidate on its own, but should complement the other application components as well. When the admissions readers have finished reading your entire application, they should have a clear picture of who you are as a well-rounded and unique individual.

Read more about 5-Step Checklist Before Submitting Your Application by clicking here.

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SBC Scoop: Managing Stress with a Timeline

Submitted By Stacy Blackman

Just about a year ago our client Emily was starting to freak out. Every time she looked at her applications for four MBA programs, all she could see was a pile of work to be done with nothing complete, and worse, no sense of when she would get it all done. It was just overwhelming.

When Emily had her first meeting with her consultant and set up a strategy for her applications to HBS, Stanford, Wharton and Kellogg, the answers seemed manageable. Discussion with her consultant helped her set up a plan to prepare her recommenders.

Read more about SBC Scoop: Managing Stress with a Timeline by clicking here.

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