Now, being waitlisted is of course not the desired outcome when you submit an application but look on the brighter side, your application is still in play. Now what do you do next? Generally, a spot on the waitlist is a positive reflection of your candidacy by the admissions team but there was something in your application that made the committee reluctant to admit you outright. I’ve seen candidates with fantastic work experience, sterling recommendations, and top GMAT scores be placed on the waitlist. Schools are generally very tight-lipped when it comes to sharing details but issues can range from unclear career goals, to lack of impact at work to a weaker academic profile.

The first step is to decide whether you even want to remain on the waitlist. Each school has a different protocol when it comes to how they handle their waitlist so the first step is determining what rules apply. So if you have received admission elsewhere with a pending decision timeline or simply do not want to wait around for an answer, follow the relevant directions that apply to your situation. Now, assuming you want to remain on the waitlist, review the application you have submitted and take inventory of the strengths and weaknesses of your submission. Some schools will provide feedback but many will not so this review may fall upon you, the applicant.

Once you have determined potential weaknesses in your application it is time to see what you can change in the limited time you may have before a final decision is rendered. Let’s look at the different levers you can push to improve your profile.

**GMAT:**

Does your GMAT not fit comfortably in the school range? Is it below the average score? If so, it may be time to take the GMAT again. Set a timeline and determine whether you will have enough time to prep and take the exam.

**Academic Performance:**

Low GPAs and lack of analytical coursework (or within your work experience) can be seen as red flags on your profile. Identifying additional coursework at local universities, community colleges, or even online schools may help address concerns about your academic readiness.

**Work Experience:**

Have you received a promotion or new and increased responsibilities since submitting your application? If so, this is a great addition to your profile. Show the admissions committee that you have the requisite leadership and teamwork skills they are looking for and that you are making an impact at your organization.

**Interest/Fit:**

Does the school know how much you want to be there? Make sure your interest is clear. Engage with the school to highlight your desire to matriculate. Many schools will provide a point of contact in the department for waitlist candidates, use this person as your personal champion to help get you off the waitlist. Reach out to personal contacts who are students, alums, or professors who may be able to send letters of support in your favor.

However, make sure to follow the directions provided by the school. Certain schools want to limit contact with candidates and are only truly looking for substantive updates so please keep this in mind as you activate your waitlist strategy.

Leverage all of these additions to your profile to enhance your application and escape the waitlist.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on 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.*

If your New Year’s Resolution is to make 2015 the year that you ace the GMAT, you can take a lesson from this time of year. The darkest points always give way to enlightenment, and that secret will get you through some very difficult GMAT problems. There are two very common structures for challenging GMAT quant problems:

1) It looks easy, but the last step or two are tricky.

2) It looks impossible, but once you’ve found the right foothold it gets easy quickly.

This post is all about #2, those problems where it looks incredibly dark right up until that moment that you reach enlightenment. Veritas Prep’s own Jason Sun recounts the first quant question en route to his official 780 score: “I stared at a nasty sequence problem for probably 45 seconds with my jaw open thinking ‘there’s no way to solve this’. Then I remembered the strategy of starting with small numbers and finding a pattern, and 10 seconds later the answer was obvious.”

That’s common on the GMAT, and step one for you is to realize that problems are designed to look like that. When things look darkest, have faith that they’ll clear up. Here are a few ways that that occurs on the GMAT.

**Calculations look awful, but work themselves out before you get to the answer.**

Consider this problem:

If the product of the integers a, b, c, and d is 1,155 and if a > b > c > d > 1, then

what is the value of a – d?

(A) 2

(B) 8

(C) 10

(D) 11

(E) 14

Upon first glance, 1155 and four variables might look really messy. But take the first step – you know it’s divisible b y 11 and that you have to factor it. 1100 is 11*100 and 55 is 11*5, so you have 11*105. And 105 is much easier to divide out since it ends in a 5. That’s 21*5, which is 7*3*5. Once you’ve factored it down, it’s 11*7*5*3, which are all prime, so when 1 has to be less than any of these, that’s exactly a, b, c, and d. You need the biggest minus the smallest, and 11-3 is 8. What may have looked like a big, intimidating number was actually not so bad once you took the first step. It’s always darkest before the light goes on.

**The problem is abstract, but comes into focus when you test small numbers.**

What is the units digit of 2^40?

(A) 2

(B) 4

(C) 6

(D) 8

(E) 0

2^40 is an insanely large number. You’ll never be able to calculate it. But if you take the first few steps with small numbers, you’ll see a pattern:

2^1 = 2

2^2 = 4

2^3 = 8

2^4 = 16

2^5 = 32

2^6 = 64

2^7 = 128

2^8 = 256

And since you only care about the units digits, you should see a pretty firm pattern emerging. 2, 4, 8, 6, 2, 4, 8, 6. If you repeat through this pattern, you’ll see that every 4th number is a 6, and since 2^40 will be the finish of the tenth run of that every-fourth-number cycle, the answer has to be 6. The GMAT loves to give you problems with big or abstract numbers that seem unfathomable, but if you test properties with small numbers you can often find a pattern or some other way to determine what you have.

**It’s always the last place you look.**

Another common theme is specific to geometry problems – the GMAT often constructs them so that a seemingly irrelevant piece of information (like the measure of a far, far away angle, or the area of a figure when you’re only solving for the length of one line) is crucial to the answer…it’s just that you don’t even consider filling in that piece of information that seems so far away from what you’re really trying to solve for. So FILL IN EVERYTHING! Even if it seems irrelevant, fill in every piece of information you can solve for and you’ll give yourself a better shot of finding that unlikely relationship that cracks the code.

**You’re not supposed to be able to solve for it, but you can estimate or use answer choices.**

Plenty of GMAT questions beg you to do some horrifying math, but if you look at the answer choices ahead of time you can see that they’re either spread incredibly far apart and ready to be estimated or they have easy-to-plug-in properties that allow you to just test them. It’s crucial to remember that the GMAT isn’t a test of pure math, but of problem solving using math. Heed this advice: if you think the calculations are too detailed to do in two minutes, you’re probably right. That’s when you should look to estimate or backsolve.

So if your GMAT study sessions are growing longer as the daylight does, keep this wisdom in mind. It always looks darkest before sunrise, and the same is true of many tough GMAT quant problems. As you struggle through practice problems, pay attention to all those times that the solution wasn’t nearly as bad as it seemed it would have to be upon first glance.

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

*By Brian Galvin*

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and happy holidays! Thank you to all of our loyal readers, students, instructors, and consultants for another incredible year. We cannot wait to see what 2015 has in store for us. It’s going to be an exciting year!

Good luck to those of you finishing up your Round 2 MBA applications. You’re almost there! Don’t forget to take a few minutes for some needed relaxation with your family this week.

Best wishes for ringing in the New Year,

The Veritas Prep Team

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2. **Check work as you go.** Checking work as you go is not only one of the keys to efficiently and effectively attack the math section, it is also one way to ensure that you avoid careless errors. This can take a number of different forms. Mainly, this manifests as an awareness of what you are writing so that you don’t engage in any copying or arithmetic errors. If you find yourself to be a fairly quick math student you may want to attempt problems with two different approaches to see if you can arrive at the same answer. This is not practical for the entirety of math section as it would nearly ensure that you would run out of time. However, it can be an effective tool if solving a problem does not lead to a plausible outcome. Which leads to the next step.

3. **Ask yourself, “Does this answer makes sense?”** It is always important to ask yourself this. You will want to question whether the answer is plausible given the other numbers in the problem and the parameters of the problem. If the answer choice doesn’t make sense, or the answer is not represented in the answer choices, it’s a good indication that you may have made a careless error.

4. **Use the calculator to double check arithmetic.** In general using calculators to solve problem should be avoided as it can lead to calculator reliance, but using your calculator to check arithmetic can be an effective tool to prevent careless errors.

5. **Refer back to the problem to avoid copying errors.** This tool is the personal life saver. Another extremely common careless error is simply copying down the wrong numbers. All that must be done is to look back at the problem and previous equations to make sure that you’re copying correctly. In a glance you can see if you wrote a two instead of a three and change the mistake before it causes further mischief.

6. **Be systematic. Use columns and lines to ensure that your work stays organized.** Organization in the way equations are set up helps to ensure that no careless errors are occurring. This is actually specifically hard for students who are particularly good at mental math or who consider SAT math easier than what they are used to. Because of this, many students do not work the problems as systematically as the hard Calculus problems that they encounter at school. ** This is a trap!** The SAT has many multistage problems that require students to keep track of a number of other derived quantities or details from the problem in order to ascertain a solution. This is a lot to ask of a brain and can get really confusing if your paper is not organized. Line up all numbers in arithmetic problems in columns, write out every step and look at what you have written to be sure it matches what you meant to write. This practice of looking for errors will make you more vigilant and better able to spot mistakes if they do happen.

Careless errors are not “stupid mistakes”, they are simply mistakes. While it is most important that students are able to apply the concepts that they are taught in classes, a firm grasp of concepts is not useful if the equations do not produce the right answer. In order to make sure the right answer is reached, students must be meticulous and on the look out for their own errors. With this level of awareness, students need never again look at a careless mistake and will dominate the exam. Happy Holidays!

Plan on taking the SAT soon? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

*David Greenslade** is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles **here**, including **How I Scored in the 99th Percentile** and **How to Effectively Study for the SAT**.*

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Kellogg over the years has taken a unique approach to the application process with a focus on bringing in candidates that exhibit a strong fit with the school. Whether it is the new video essay or the fact that the school interviews every candidate, Kellogg is the one school where every candidate has a chance to showcase their fit. Here are some of the best ways to showcase fit at Kellogg:

**Highlight Interpersonal Skills**

Kellogg more than any other school seeks to build and develop a community based around strong interpersonal skills and a social mindset. There is a reason the school interviews every candidate and has now even incorporated a video essay into the application process. Kellogg is known for its unique student-led culture that emphasizes collaboration. What is even more unique about this collaborative mindset the school craves in candidates, is that Kellogg is not just seeking team players but instead applicants with a track record as leaders of teams. So utilize these various touchpoints to showcase your leadership and teamwork skills, which are points of emphasis in the Kellogg application. Self-reflection and maturity are also critical areas that the school clearly targets in applicants; the essay questions clearly prompt candidates to explore these areas, so take the bait!

**Knowledge of Kellogg Programs**

Want to know what Kellogg loves more than anything? Candidates who actually have done research on the program! Too often applicants submit generic wants and needs from target programs that could embody hundreds of other programs. Get specific on which academic, extra-curricular, and social programs drive your interest in the school while connecting the dots to your short and long-term career and personal development goals. Students at Kellogg are incredibly engaged throughout their time at the school and as alums, so showcase your track record of engagement in the past as well as plans for how you plan to add value to the greater Kellogg community in the future.

**Get Personal**

Kellogg really wants to get to know you. You know how I know this; they use every application component to assess fit. Whether it is through the deeply personal essays, the universal interviews of every applicant or the fit focused video essays, Kellogg is trying to piece together who you are. Show the school that you are open and honest and can dive deep into your motivations for not only pursuing an MBA but one at the Kellogg School of Management. Use the different application components to provide insights into how you handle people and problems in your personal and professional arenas. Don’t forget this is a professional application for grad school so make sure to link your personal anecdotes to real world skills and lessons and you will be standing out from the competition at Kellogg in no time.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Actually, we can find the last two digits quite easily in most such cases by using the concepts of remainders.

There are two concepts you need to understand before we go on to see how to solve such questions:

I. **When you divide a number by 100, the remainder is formed by the last two digits of the number.** Say, you divide 138 by 100, the remainder will be 38 (last two digits). Take another example – divide 1275 by 100, the remainder will be 75 and so on.

II. **When you divide (px + a)(qx + b)*…*(tx + e) by x, the remainder will be the remainder obtained by dividing a*b*…*e by x**. This should remind you of the binomial theorem we discussed many weeks ago. When we multiply all these terms together (px + a), (qx + b) etc, each term obtained will have at least one x except the last term which is obtained by multiplying the remainders together. To get a better idea, let’s take some numbers:

Let’s say we need to find the remainder when we divide 12*23*52*81 by 10.

K = 12*23*52*81 = (10 + 2)*(20 + 3)*(50 +2)*(80 + 1)

When you multiply these four terms together, you will get many terms such as 10*20*50*80, 10*20*50*1, 10*20*2*80 etc. All these will have a multiple of 10 except the last one. The last one will be 2*3*2*1 = 12. That doesn’t have a multiple of 10. Now divide 12 by 10 to get the remainder 2. So when you divide K by 10, the remainder will be 2.

Now, let’s look at a question:

Question 1: What are the last two digits of 63*35*37*82*71*41?

(A) 10

(B) 30

(C) 40

(D) 70

(E) 80

Solution: Using concept 1, we know that to find the last two digits, we need to find the remainder we get when we divide the product by 100.

Remainder of (63*35*37*82*71*41)/ 100

Note that we can simplify this expression by canceling out the 5 and 2 in the numerator and denominator. But before we do that, here is an important note:

*Note: We cannot just cancel off the common terms in the numerator and denominator to get the remainder. But, if we want to cancel off to simplify the question, we can do it, provided we remember to multiply it back again.
So say, we want to find the remainder when 14 is divided by 10 i.e. 14/10 (remainder 4). But we cancel off the common 2 to get 7/5. The remainder here will be 2 which is not the same as the remainder obtained by dividing 14 by 10. But if we multiply 2 back by 2 (the number we canceled off), the remainder will become 2*2 = 4 which is correct.
Take another example to reinforce this – what is the remainder when 85 is divided by 20? It is 5.
We might rephrase it as – what is the remainder when 17 is divided by 4 (cancel off 5 from the numerator and the denominator). The remainder in this case is 1. We multiply the 5 back to 1 to get the remainder as 5 which is correct.*

So keeping this very important point in mind, let’s go ahead and cancel the common 5 and 2.

We need the

Remainder of (63*7*37*41*71*41*5*2)/10*5*2

Remainder of (63*7*37*41*71*41)/10

Now using concept 2, let’s write the numbers in form of multiples of 10

Remainder of (60+3)*7*(30+7)*(40+1)*(70+1)*(40+1)/10

Remainder of 3*7*7*1*1*1/10

Remainder of 147/10 = 7

Now remember, we had canceled off 10 so to get the actual remainder so we need to multiply by 10: 7*10 = 70.

When 63*35*37*82*71*41 is divided by 100, the remainder is 70. So the last two digits of 63*35*37*82*71*41 must be 70.

Answer (D)

Next week, we will see some more complicated questions using these and other fundamentals.

*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!*

Routine works to improve your test score on a few levels. It gets your body physically accustomed to test day conditions as well as works to quell the nerves (your biggest enemy on test day can be anxiety). Routine is powerful! Here are a few ways in which you can establish a routine that will help you score better on test day.

**Sleep Schedule:** You want to ensure that you know exactly how your body and mind will feel on test day. Establishing a good sleep schedule in the weeks before the test will play a crucial role in this. If you’re used to sleeping in until 10am and taking your practice ACT at 11am, it will come as a shock to wake up at 6am on test day. You will know your test time weeks before the actual exam; work on getting your body accustomed to the sleep schedule that this test time requires.

**“Test” Practice:** You can work to simulate testing conditions in a number of ways. If you’re scheduled to take your ACT on Saturday at 8 am, practice waking up at 6am, driving to another location, sitting down, and taking a practice exam four Saturdays before the test. The more times you do the routine, the more comfortable you will feel on test day. If you can practice at your actual test center, that’s great! Be sure to account for timing and standardized breaks.

**Nutrition:** Food is a critical part of routine that is often forgotten. Hunger can distract your attention from the exam, so be sure to figure out what kinds of snacks you need to bring. This plays a significant role on test day, from the breakfast you eat, to the snacks you bring, to the amount of liquids you consume. Everyone is different, so it can be helpful to test out what kinds of breakfast keeps you full and satisfied throughout your exam. While it may seem trivial, making sure you stay hydrated without over-hydrating is important too; no one wants to feel uncomfortable during testing.

These three simple tips for establishing a routine will help you feel more comfortable on test day. Once you’ve established a routine, you can walk into your actual test day feeling more confident and you’ll know exactly what to expect. Happy Studying!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

*Sarah Smith is a Pre-med, Bioethics major at Northwestern University. She’s editor in chief and co-founder of the student health magazine and enjoys being involved in various clubs around campus. Sarah is passionate about education and enjoys learning and teaching. She enjoys helping Veritas Prep students prepare for the ACT!*

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The other answer we can give you? Sarah Koenig would do pretty darned well on Data Sufficiency questions, where often it’s just as important to determine what you don’t know as it is to determine what you do. While the internet buzzed with theories certain that Adnan did it, that Jay did it, that a recently-released serial killer did it, Koenig was often ridiculed for being so noncommittal in her assessment of whether Adnan is guilty or not. But that’s an important mentality on Data Sufficiency questions, as one of the common ways that the GMAT will bait you is giving you information that seems overwhelmingly sufficient (The Nisha call! The phone was in Leakin Park!) but that leaves just enough doubt (Why did Jay’s story change so much?) that you can’t prove a definitive answer. And like the jury in the Serial case, we all have that tendency to jump to conclusions (“well if he didn’t kill her, who did?”) and filter out information that we don’t like (Christina Gutierrez’s performance…). This Serial-themed Data Sufficiency problem should exemplify (forgive the lack of subscript formatting, but a sequence problem in a Serial blog post seemed fitting):

The infinite (serial) sequence a1, a2, …, an, … is such that a1 = x, a2 = y, a3 = z,a4 = 3 and an = a(n-4) for n > 4. What is the sum of the first 98 terms of the sequence?

(1) x = 5

(2) y + z = 2

As people unpack the mystery in this problem, they start to see what’s going on. If an = a(n-4), then each term equals the term that came four prior. So the sequence really goes:

x, y, z, 3, x, y, z, 3, x, y, z, 3…

So although it looks like a pretty massive mystery, really you’re trying to figure out x, y, and z because 3 is just 3. And here’s a common way of thinking:

Statement 1 is not sufficient, but it gets you one of the terms. And Statement 2 is not sufficient but it gets you two more. So when you put them together, you know that the sum of one trip through the 4-term sequence is 5 + 2 + 3 = 10, so you should be able to extrapolate that to the whole thing, right? Just figure out how many trips through will get you to term 98 and you have it; like the Syed jury, you have the motive and the timeline and the cell phone records and Jay’s testimony, so the answer has to be C. Right?

But let’s interview Sarah Koenig here:

Sarah: The pieces all seem to fit but I’m just not so sure. Statement 2 looks really bad for him. If we can connect those dots for y and z, and we already have x, we should have all variables converted to numbers. Literally it all adds up. But I feel like I’m missing something. I can definitely get the sum of the first 4 terms and of the first 8 terms and of the first 12 terms; those are 10, and 20, and 30. But what about the number 98?

And that’s where Sarah Koenig’s trademark thoughtfulness-over-opinionatedry comes in. There is a giant hole in “Answer choice C’s case” against this problem. You can get the sequence in blocks of 4, but 98 is two past the last multiple of 4 (which is 96). The 97th term is easy: that’s x = 5. But the 98th term is tricky: it’s y, and we don’t know y unless we have z with it ( we just have the sum of the two). So we can’t solve for the 98th term. The answer has to be E – we just don’t know.

Now if you’ve heard yesterday’s episode, think about Dana’s “think of all the things that would have to have gone wrong, all the bad luck” rundown. “He lent his car and his phone to the guy who pointed the finger at him. That sucks for him. On the day that his girlfriend went missing. That’s awful luck…” And in real life she may be right – that’s a lot of probability to overcome. But on the GMAT they hand pick the questions. On this problem you can solve for the 97th term (up to 96 there are just blocks of 4 terms, and you know that each block sums to 10, and the 97th term is known as 5) or the 99th term (same thing, but add the sum of the 98th and 99th terms which you know is 2). But the GMAT hand-selected the tricky question just like Koenig hand-selected the Adnan Syed case for its mystery. GMAT Data Sufficiency questions are like Serial…it pays to be skeptical as you examine the evidence. It pays to think like Sarah Koenig. Unlike Jay, the statements will always be true and they’ll always be consistent, but like Serial in general you’ll sometimes find that you just don’t have enough information to definitively answer the question on everyone’s lips. So do your journalistic due diligence and look for alternative explanations (Don did it!). Next thing you know you’ll be “Stepping Out!!!” of the test center with a high GMAT score.

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Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

*By Brian Galvin*

1. **Burnout is real.** Throughout high school and my first two years of college, I filled my schedule with extracurriculars, classes, and travel, reasoning that I’d only have one high school and one undergraduate experience, and that I should try to get as much out of both as I could. However, at the end of my sophomore year, I realized that I wasn’t enjoying my work. My grades, my health, and my mood took a few heavy hits before I realized that the problem wasn’t that my major and my work didn’t fit my interests; I was just completely exhausted, mentally and physically, and the only possible solution was rest. Burnout isn’t a sign of laziness or weakness, but an occasionally unavoidable symptom of overwork. Unfortunately, if not dealt with in a healthy way, burnout can sap energy and waste time, and at worst can interrupt academic ambitions or make retention and learning impossible. I know plenty of people who became burned out earlier or later than I did in their academic careers, and productively used time off—often in the form of a gap year—to refresh themselves and to rekindle their passion for their work.

2. **Once you start school, it’s hard to stop.** A summer abroad in England and a light course load in my fall semester helped me recover from my burnout, but the process was slow and frustrating because I never found time to completely relax. My heavy reliance on financial aid and scholarships, the yearlong lease on my apartment, and my desire to graduate at the same time as my peers made the prospect of taking a semester off seem impossible, and my four-year class plan couldn’t easily be reorganized since the classes I needed to graduate were only offered in particular semesters. I chose to lighten rather than to pause my work, but academic and financial limits prevented me from lightening it as much as I would have liked to. By starting college, I had laid a fairly inflexible groundwork for the next four years, and two years later I had little choice but to stick to it, regardless of the fact that a break would probably have been extremely healthy at the time for me, both academically and personally.

3. **Once you stop school, it’s hard to start again.** Many students who take a gap year never return to their studies. College is demanding, expensive, and very tempting to postpone indefinitely once you’ve shifted away from the “school mode” mindset. Consider how committed you are to getting a college degree before deciding to take time off.

4. **If you’re going to take a gap year, do something meaningful with it.** Many students take a year to travel to incredible places or to gain valuable work experience, and return to school with amazing stories to tell and a unique perspective that ends up enriching their education. The ones I know recount these experiences as easily the most valuable part of their gap year. Others take a much-needed break, or save up money in order to be able to spend more time studying and less time working once they do enter college. College is fantastic, but so is the rest of the world, and both places have a lot to offer. The last thing you want to do is feel like you’ve done nothing but waste time while others around you have grown and learned.

6. **Admissions offices don’t discriminate one way or the other.** Again, the key is not where you spent your time but how you’ve used it. The things that appear on your resume and in your essays represent your interests and your character, whether they took place in a classroom or on a mission trip to Ecuador. A good friend of mine, who sat on an admissions committee for many years, once told me that some of the most interesting candidates he ever interviewed made themselves stand out by using a gap year to acquire unique experience.

There is no one perfect path. Just as everyone’s college experience is unique, every gap year is unique as well. If you’re really not sure, check with your university of interest to see what their policies are about taking time off. Three short years after starting college, I’ve already had to begin considering whether I’ll take time off before graduate school. Twelve months isn’t very long, just like four years (shockingly) isn’t very long; and ultimately, whether or not you take a gap year after high school won’t determine whether or not you succeed in life, whether you’ll be happy, or even whether you finish your education.

Plan on taking the SAT soon? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

*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.*

One reason people spend a lot of time on these questions is that they try to read the entire passage thoroughly. This is normal because this is how most reading is done, be it in newspapers or periodicals or novels. However, on the GMAT, speed is the name of the game. If I were doing a book report on Shakespeare’s works, then I would read the text multiple times, looking for nuance and symbolism. The goal on the GMAT is quite different: you have roughly eight minutes to read a passage and then answer four questions about it. That isn’t much time, but it can work if you’re question-focused.

Why be question focused? (Rhetorical question) A typical passage may have 300-400 words, and you could be asked 20-30 different questions about the information contained within it. In reality, you will only be asked 3-4-5 questions about this text, so becoming an expert on the minutiae contained within seems like a complete waste of time. In fact, considering that you only have ~2 minutes per question, it is not only a waste of time but a distraction that will waste precious time and lower your score. The vast majority of questions will require you to go back to the passage and reread the relevant portion, so your initial read is only there to give you a general sense of the text. After the initial read, you should be able to answer broad, universal questions. However, for questions that deal in specifics, you’ll have to go back to the text.

Specific questions deal with (drum roll please) specific elements of the passage. At first glance, you wouldn’t necessarily recall such minute details, but if you know where to go back in the text, it becomes a trivial case of rereading until you find it. As an example, you might not remember what Luke Skywalker was wearing on Tatooine when he first meets Obi-Wan Kenobi, but you could just rewatch the first act of Star Wars and see for yourself. There is no need to memorize every minor detail, as long as you know where to find the answer, you can just look it up.

Let’s look at a GMAT passage and answer a question that deals with a specific element of the passage (note: this is the same passage I used in October for a function question).

Nearly all the workers of the Lowell textile mills of Massachusetts were unmarried daughters from farm families. Some of the workers were as young as ten. Since many people in the 1820s were disturbed by the idea of working females, the company provided well-kept dormitories and boarding-houses. The meals were decent and church attendance was mandatory. Compared to other factories of the time, the Lowell mills were clean and safe, and there was even a journal, The Lowell Offering, which contained poems and other material written by the workers, and which became known beyond New England. Ironically, it was at the Lowell Mills that dissatisfaction with working conditions brought about the first organization of working women.

The mills were highly mechanized, and were in fact considered a model of efficiency by others in the textile industry. The work was difficult, however, and the high level of standardization made it tedious. When wages were cut, the workers organized the Factory Girls Association. 15,000 women decided to “turn out”, or walk off the job. The Offering, meant as a pleasant creative outlet, gave the women a voice that could be heard by sympathetic people elsewhere in the country, and even in Europe. However, the ability of the women to demand changes was severely circumscribed by an inability to go for long without wages with which to support themselves and help support their families. The same limitation hampered the effectiveness of the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association (LFLRA), organized in 1844.

No specific reform can be directly attributed to the Lowell workers, but their legacy is unquestionable. The LFLRA’s founder, Sarah Bagley, became a national figure, testifying before the Massachusetts House of Representatives. When the New England Labor Reform League was formed, three of the eight board members were women. Other mill workers took note of the Lowell strikes, and were successful in getting better pay, shorter hours, and safer working conditions. Even some existing child labor laws can be traced back to efforts first set in motion by the Lowell Mill Women.

According to the passage, which of the following contributed to the inability of the workers at Lowell to have their demands met?

(A) The very young age of some of the workers made political organization impractical.

(B) Social attitudes of the time pressured women into not making demands.

(C) The Lowell Female Labor Reform Association was not organized until 1844.

(D) Their families depended on the workers to send some of their wages home.

(E) The people who were most sympathetic to the workers lived outside of New England.

If you’ve been following the Veritas technique on Reading Comprehension, then you should have spent about two minutes reading through the passage and summarizing each paragraph in a couple of words. If you didn’t do this, feel free to go back and do it now. Once completed, your summaries of each paragraph should be something like:

1) Lowell Mills and context

2) Labor strife and consequences

3) Legacy of Lowell Mills

Your exact wording may vary, but you want to keep it at about 3-5 words or so. This should give enough of a framework so you know where to go in every question. If we look at the question at hand, it asks why were the workers at Lowell unable to have their demands met. This has to be in the second paragraph, as that was the part that dealt with the actual worker strife.

Rereading this paragraph, we go through a description of what prompted the strike and then how many people participated. Directly following this is the line: “However, the ability of the women to demand changes was severely circumscribed by an inability to go for long without wages with which to support themselves and help support their families”. This was their downfall: they needed money to support themselves and their loved ones (unsurprisingly the downfall of most strikes). The wording used may be somewhat obtuse, but the context makes it quite clear that the issue was money. Going through the answer choices, D is the only option that is remotely close to what we want, and is therefore the correct answer.

On Reading Comprehension questions, it’s very easy to experience information overload (TL;DR for the new generation). A lot of information is contained in each passage, and this is not an accident. The test is designed to try and waste your time with frivolous sentences, so your goal is to read for overarching intent and know that you’ll have to revisit the text on most questions. Specific questions tend to ask about something minor, or possibly tangential, and therefore usually require you to reread the passage. Practice Reading Comprehension timing and you will find that you can answer these specific questions faster.

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*Ron Awad is a GMAT instructor for Veritas Prep based in Montreal, bringing you weekly advice for success on your exam. After graduating from McGill and receiving his MBA from Concordia, Ron started teaching GMAT prep and his Veritas Prep students have given him rave reviews ever since.*