How Not to Infer an Inference

Reading in Bed

The last time we talked about reading comprehension, we focused on questions that are really asking why, as opposed to asking what. Another type of question word that we need to make sure we understand correctly is the word inferred. Inferred, along with its tricky friends suggested and implied, tends to make our minds wander away from the information in the passage on the computer screen and out to somewhere in the real world. And that’s why we get these questions wrong. The key to doing well on questions of the infer, imply, and suggest variety is remembering that the correct answer will always be supported by the text. Let’s look at the passage on page 392 of the Official Guide (13th Edition) as an example.

Questions 65, 67, and 68 all use the word inferred. We need to find out what the passage says explicitly about the subject of each of these questions and then find answer that matches.

Question 65 talks about the isotope record of ocean sediment. These key words aren’t very helpful to finding the location of the answer to this question since the whole passage is about the isotopic record. Instead, let’s use the words “less useful.” The third paragraph talks about the advantages of the isotope record of ocean sediment, so that’s where we want to look for information about its usefulness. The two advantages cited in that paragraph are that has little variation and is a continuous record. Since those are advantages, if either of those were not true, it would be “less useful.” Let’s look at the subject of each answer to see which are direct opposites of those benefits.

A)     Lighter isotopes of oxygen

B)      More gaps in its sequence

C)      Climate shifts

D)     Compares ocean water to fresh water.

E)      Only a million years old

Answer B is the only match. The cited benefit is a continuous record, so gaps would make it less beneficial. Even the official explanation quotes this line. In fact, if you look at the explanations to all of these questions in the answer section of the Official Guide, you will notice that each answer says that “Any inference…needs to be based on what the passage says.” Keep that in mind. An inference in real life is not the same as a GMAT inference. Always looks for the answer that is stated directly. Let try two more.

Question 67 focuses on precipitation from evaporated ocean water. The answer is clearly stated in lines 20 through 23. These lines say that heavier isotopes are left behind during evaporation, so the non-evaporated water has a lot of oxygen 18. This is means that the evaporated water that becomes precipitation must have less oxygen 18 since it was left behind. This is exactly what answer B says. Answers C (continental ice sheets), D (water on land), and E (oxygen 16) all have the wrong focus. Answer A can be eliminated just by reading carefully.

Question 68 focuses on calcium carbonate shells, which are discussed in lines 24 through 29. According to that part of the paragraph, the shells contain oxygen atoms from the surrounding ocean water. Reading backwards through that sentence, we learn that the enrichment levels (of oxygen, as stated in the preceding sentence) can be determined from analyzing the sediment created by those shells. If you haven’t already learned from answering previous questions that the oxygen enrichment referred to and the isotope record are the same thing, you may have to read further back in the paragraph. But if you do already know that, then the answer is definitely E. Again, the other answers focus on subjects that are not relevant to the question. A focuses on deterioration, B on a comparison to ice age sediment, C on ice, and D on radioactive material. None of those were discussed in the lines that talk about calcium carbonate shells, but we do have clearly stated proof in the passage for answer E.

Notice how we did not read the whole passage ahead of time to answer these questions. Instead, we skimmed the passage looking for key words from the question. This can be a useful strategy for saving time. Of course, if you have a primary purpose or main idea question first this may not work as well, but inference questions do not require knowledge beyond the immediate subject of the question.

Want more information? Check out the Reading Comprehension section of my 30 Day GMAT Success book!

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When to Ignore My Advice

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In several previous posts, we talked about assigning values as a great alternative to solving with algebra. Assigning values can give us a greater degree of confidence and help us avoid careless mistakes. However, sometimes it is not the fastest strategy. In this post, we will look at two Yes/No Data Sufficiency questions from the GMAT Official Guide (13th Edition) that could be solved by assigning values, but that we can actually solve more quickly by thinking about the properties of the numbers involved.

First, question #97 on page 283. The only information given in the question is that x and y are integers. Therefore, when we look at statement 1, we should be able to tell very easily that this statement alone is not sufficient. The numbers could be positive, negative, or a combination. Statement two, however, yields a lot more useful information. The only way to get a negative result when dealing with exponents is when the base is negative and the exponent is odd. By itself, this information is still not sufficient because we don’t know whether x is negative or positive, just that it is odd. But when we put the statements together, if y is negative, x must be positive to get the sum of x and y to be greater than zero. So the answer to the question is a clear yes when we put the statements together. C is correct.

If you didn’t remember the criteria that must be met to get a negative result when dealing with exponents, be sure to review your special exponent rules.  Sure, we could have assigned values for this question, but that strategy would have taken three times as long as simply knowing the properties of the numbers that were revealed by the statements.

Let’s try question #99 the same way. We know from the question that r and s are the numbers we can plug into the equation for x to make it equal zero (that’s what roots are). So r and s when multiplied together equal c, and r and s when added together equal b. From statement one, we learn that r + s < 0. They could both be negative, or they could be a mix of one negative and one positive, so this statement alone is not sufficient to tell us whether rs < 0. Statement two tells us clearly that rs < 0, since rs = c. The correct answer is B.

As you progress in your data sufficiency practice, you will start to recognize in which situations you should assign values and in which you can simply use the properties of the numbers involved. But as we learned in our last math post, if you aren’t quite sure of the number properties being tested, it is always better to assign values and test out some cases than to jump to conclusions. Don’t just guess.

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What is Your Dream GMAT Score?

pie chart

One question that a lot of people have is just what exactly their GMAT score means. They aren’t sure what a “good” score is and how much improvement they can reasonably expect to see after investing time in studying for the test. They may not be certain whether they should apply for programs that have a mean or median score that is higher than what they achieved on their test. Today’s post will break down the four main sections to help you understand these issues better.

Analytical Writing

The mean score for Analytical Writing is 4.4, out of a total possible score of 6. This score is not incorporated into the composite score. The Guidelines for Using GMAT Scores strongly discourage decision making about applicants based on a one-point different on the Analytical Writing Score. The Guidelines also recommend carefully considering that impact of a non-native English speaker’s deficiency in English on his overall test score and to not necessarily see low scores in those cases as an indicator of poor reasoning skills.

Integrated Reasoning

The mean score for Integrated Reasoning is 4.33, out of a total possible score of 8. This score is not incorporated into the composite score. As this section is very new, schools are not reporting the mean or median Integrated Reasoning scores of accepted applicants.

Verbal

The mean score for Verbal is 27.6, out of a total possible score of 60. This total is a bit deceptive though. A score of 9 will place you above just 1% of all test takers, and a score of 45 will place you above 99% of all test takers. So even though the average might be 27.6 and the top score 60, a 42 is an incredible score that puts you in the 96% ranking. In addition, the percentage gains are not constant. For example, 31 to 32 raw score is a 5% increase, 32 to 33 raw score is a 3% increase, 33 to 34 raw score is a 2% increase, and 34 to 35 raw score is a 5% increase. Don’t assume that all 5 point increases have the same impact on your total score or your percent ranking.

Quantitative

The mean score for Quantitative is 37, also out of a total possible score of 60. Note how much higher the quantitative mean is than the verbal mean. Keep that in mind when you are comparing your raw scores to decide on which section to focus your studies. The total is again deceptive. A score of 7 will place you above just 1% of all test takers, and a score of 51 will place you above 99% of all test takers. However, just one point lower, a 50, drops you to the 90th percent ranking and two points lower, a 49, drops you all the way to the 83% ranking. Keep this important difference between the quantitative and verbal sections in mind when you decide whether to take the GMAT a second or third time. If your raw quantitative score is near the top of the scale, getting just a one point raw score increase could be a big deal for your composite score.

Composite

For the composite score, which is made up only of the Verbal and Quantitative Sections, a 544 is the mean score. A 760 will put you at the 99% ranking and a 500 drops you all the way to the 33% ranking. The minimum score is a 200. Because of these variations, it is difficult to predict how many points you can increase with a certain amount of studying. Going from a 400 to a 500 is a 21% increase, which is easier than going from a 500 to a 600, a 29% increase. In general, the lower your score is to begin with, the easier gains are to achieve.

Also remember that the Guidelines for Using GMAT Scores state that there is a standard error of measure of 29 points. This means that if you took the GMAT three months in row without studying in between attempts, you could expect to see a difference of 30 points higher or lower than your original score on each subsequent test. However, because any test, no matter how well designed, can only be an estimate of your abilities, GMAC goes beyond that 29 point error and recommends using a 40 point standard error of difference for decision purposes. What does that mean for you? It means that all else (GPA, work experience, interview, recommendations, etc) being equal, if you got a 600 on the GMAT and another candidate got a 640, your scores should be viewed as equal. It also means that schools are strongly discouraged from having a hard cut-off point for GMAT scores. It wouldn’t make sense to toss an application with a 590 GMAT automatically, when a 590 could be the same as a 610. So don’t discourage yourself from applying for a school that you may think is a little out of your reach based on reported scores of accepted applicants. Be sure to consider all factors that you bring to the application package.

Want more information on how your GMAT score will be interpreted and used by schools? There is no better place to get it then from the folks at GMAC themselves!

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Just What is the Role of Those Sentences Anyways?

Exam

If you have already been practicing Critical Reasoning questions on the GMAT, you have likely worked a lot on assumption, strengthen, weaken, and inference questions. While those are the question types that you are likely to encounter with the most frequency on the GMAT, there are other minor types too. One of those is the boldfaced sentence type. These arguments have two sentences printed in bold type and it is your job to correctly identify the role of those sentences. These questions are asking about the structure, rather than the topic, of the argument. Although the task you must complete is different, the skills you need for this question type are the same as those for the more common question types. The sentences will be premises or conclusions, so you have to be able to identify those. Let’s review.

A premise is a fact, a statement that is indisputable. It comes from observation, research, a publication, or some other location of public record that could be used to verify the information. While you may not believe some of the premises given on the GMAT, you have to accept them as true since you don’t have access to resources for fact-checking.

A conclusion is what the author is trying to convince you of. Often times, conclusions can be identified through key words such as conclusion, clearly, suggests, hypothesizes, and therefore. Other times, they are a bit trickier. Just remember that they are statements that cannot yet be proven as fact. Any type of recommendation, plan, opinion, or future statement cannot be proven, so those types of statements are also conclusions.

If you can identify premises and conclusions, you can quickly eliminate answer choices on the boldfaced sentence critical reasoning questions. Let’s look at #78 on page 524 of the Official Guide (13th Edition) as an example.The first boldfaced sentence is a premise. You could look up insurance records in various countries to find the evidence. The second boldfaced sentence is a conclusion because the sentence begins with clearly, which, of course, is not boldfaced. Be sure to read the whole sentence when working on these questions. Let’s see how quickly we can eliminate answers with what we have just figured out.

A)     A claim is a conclusion. Eliminate this answer based on boldfaced sentence 1.

B)      A claim is a conclusion. Eliminate this answer based on boldfaced sentence 1.

C)      Finding and conclusion are consistent with our analysis. Keep this answer for now.

D)     Finding and claim are consistent with our analysis. Keep this answer for now.

E)      Evidence is a premise. Eliminate this answer based on boldfaced sentence 2.

What is nice about having two part answers like these is that we don’t always need to use the entire argument to eliminate wrong choices. An answer that is half wrong is completely wrong. Sometimes, you can even find the correct answer by just using one sentence, although not in this case.

Now, let’s look back at the remaining choices. The full content of those answer choices cannot be properly analyzed without looking at the whole argument. Remember, this is a structure question, so let’s not worry about the topic; we’ll look at the structure instead.

Sentence 1: A premise

Sentence 2: A premise that describes a problem with analyzing the first premise.

Sentence 3: An inappropriate conclusion that some might draw from the premises.

Sentence 4: A valid conclusion.

We can see that there are two conclusions here, so we should keep that in mind when we dig deeper into our remaining answer choices.

C)      The first part of this answer claims that the second premise supports the first conclusion. This is clearly not true based on the analysis above.

D)     This answer is correct. In the first part of the answer, implications are the same as a conclusion and the first conclusion is at issue. The second part of the answer is true because the second conclusion argues against the first.

As you can see, you probably will have to read the entire argument, not just the boldfaced sentences, to arrive at the correct answer. But don’t do so unless you have to. Save yourself the time if you can by eliminating answers based just on whether they are premises or conclusions.

 

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Medical Careers Aren’t Just for Doctors Anymore

Hospital Geral do Estado

MBA Program Spotlight: Health Care Administration

Health care is a booming industry and shows no sign of slowing down.  Just look at the projections from the US Department of Labor While many of those jobs will be for doctors, nurses, and medical support staff, hospitals and clinics need skilled business professionals as well. Working in health care, you will be able to combine a passion for public health and community engagement with your business acumen. Here are some great options to help you acquire the skills you need to be a leader among medical personnel.

University of Western Ontario (Richard Ivey)

 

What’s so great about this school?  Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, there has been much comparison between the health care system in the US and that in Canada. As a future MBA student who is interested in health care administration, why not study in Canada and experience the differences for yourself? And if you need further incentive to attend a Canadian school, consider this: Ivey is the top ranked business school in all of Canada and Ivey graduates enjoy the greatest percent increase in their salaries after receiving their MBAs. Studying in Canada also makes obtaining a work visa very simple, so if you want to stay after your studies, you can.

School Type: Public

Median GMAT Score: 669

Average Incoming GPA: not available

Percent of Applicants Accepted: 48%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 6:1

Average Student Age: 28

 

University of Colorado—Denver

 

What’s so great about this school?  Not only is the University of Colorado one of the best MBA programs for Health Administration, but the program also allows students to specialize within that program. The specializations include International Health Management, Financial Management, and Health IT Management. This means that students study in courses that are as closely tailored to their professional interests as possible and have more knowledge to bring to the table when applying for jobs in health care than will most other MBAs. In addition, Denver is one of the top 10 cities for health care careers, so you will have fantastic networking and internship opportunities while in school.

School Type: Public

Median GMAT Score: 600

Average Incoming GPA: 3.2

Percent of Applicants Accepted: 46%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 12:1

Average Student Age: 28

 

 

University of Utah – David Eccles School of Business

 

What’s so great about this school?  The Health Administration specialization at the David Eccles School of Business is a dual degree program in which students can also obtain an MA in Public Administration or Public Health. The extra qualification gives students a wider knowledge base and more opportunities for employment. Students participate in community service health projects and internships that require them to serve in multiple positions to get the widest range of real-world health care experience possible.

School Type: Public

Median GMAT Score: 560

Average Incoming GPA: 3.4

Percent of Applicants Accepted: 99%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 4:1

Average Age: 30

 

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How to Improve Your GMAT Score as Quickly as Possible

TRIPLE Jump

Today’s advice is really simple:

Don’t jump to conclusions.

While it is true that data sufficiency questions often require far fewer calculations than do problem solving questions, a common mistake people make on the GMAT is not doing enough calculations.

Let’s look at #114 on page 285 of the GMAT Official Guide (13th Edition). This is a concrete value question that is looking for the total number of staff members. Statement 1 supplies a ratio of office supplies received. The ratio of 2:3:4 could mean real numbers of {2, 3, 4} or {4, 6, 8} or any multiple on to infinity. This statement is clearly not sufficient. Statement 2 supplies the number of office supplies received. This is also clearly not sufficient by itself because all of the numbers in the statement can be divided by both 3 and 9. Now, here is where many people will jump to a bad conclusion. Many test-takers will look at those two statements and assume that because they now have a ratio and real numbers, the problem is solvable and the answer is C, both statements together are sufficient. However, they will be wrong. Unless you can state the specific, mathematical reason that statements 1 and 2 together will be sufficient, you should invest some time working through the possibilities. If we divide the numbers in statement 2 by 3, we get 6, 9, and 12 (a multiple of a 2:3:4 ratio) and if we divide the numbers by 9, we get 2, 3, and 4 (also a multiple of a 2:3:4 ratio). So we still don’t know if there are 3 or 9 employees, and the correct answer is E.

Let’s try another one. Question #125 on page 286 is asking for the probability that a chip will be blue or white. Look at the two statements. Statement 1 gives us the probability of selecting a blue chip and statement 2 gives us the probability of selecting a red chip. When we put the statements together, we know the probability of the white as well, so clearly choice C works. However, we didn’t even think about the fact that statement 2 works by itself. If we know that red is a one-third probability, then we know that blue and white together are two-thirds, which is what the question is asking. We don’t need blue and white probabilities individually. Remember that answer C specifically states that “NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient,” which isn’t true in this question. Once again, the mistaken answer is C. Are you seeing the pattern here? The two statements are often designed to look great together. Be absolutely certain that C is correct before you select it.

Remember that you have around two minutes per question. If you think you arrived at an answer for a data sufficiency question in just ten seconds, why not take a little longer and work through it more thoroughly? Doing so can help you catch careless mistakes and gain some extra points.

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5 Good Reasons to Throw Away Your Calculator

Du-Par's Menu

Like most students, you may find it incredibly unfair that you aren’t allowed to use a calculator on the main quantitative portion of the GMAT. Even though all test takers are in the same boat, which means the impact on your score percentile is non-existent, it can still be incredibly frustrating to suddenly have to use a marker and white board, or just your brain cells, to do calculations that you have been doing in a spreadsheet or with a calculator for over a decade. However, the GMAT is intended to be a reasoning test, not a quantitative achievement test. If you are working out extensive calculations on your white board, you aren’t approaching many the problems correctly. Working on mental math skills (such as estimation, identifying patterns, and using properties of numbers) will certainly boost your GMAT score, and, believe it or not, there are several real world benefits that come from improving your mental math skills as you practice for the GMAT. These include:

 

1)      Restaurant Etiquette – Don’t try to deny it. We have all been in a situation at least once with a group of people in a restaurant after the bill has come and no one can figure out his fair share accurately, and, heaven forbid, figure out the tip on top of that. While such a situation may only be mildly annoying among friends, not being able to quickly and accurately calculate a tip while at a business lunch could be downright embarrassing.

 

2)      Getting the Right Change – Cashiers sometimes make mistakes. If you know how much change to expect, you can ensure that the mistake doesn’t end up coming out of your wallet. And conversely, you wouldn’t want to call out a cashier for giving you the wrong change when in fact she was right all along. That could also be quite embarrassing.

 

3)      Recognizing a Bargain – OK, maybe you never pay in cash, so the second benefit of mental math doesn’t apply to you. But everyone loves a bargain. Prices in stores can be intentionally deceptive, and what looks like a good deal may not be at all. If single cans of dog food are on sale for $1.30 each (marked down from their usual $1.70), that seems like a great deal. But the twelve-pack (inconveniently placed on a lower shelf) is only $14. You may be drawn to the sale price, but the regularly priced twelve-pack is still cheaper. Now, $1.60 may not seem like a big difference, but you can bet that bit of advertising trickery happens with big ticket items as well. If you have to punch the numbers into your cell phone’s calculator (And what if you forgot your cell phone at home?) for twenty or thirty items on your shopping list, you could really extend the length of your trip. Mental math can be a time saver.  Want a quick tip for this mental math example? You already know that $1 times 12 is $12, so just multiply 3 by 12, to get 36. Add on the zero, remember the decimal places, and you should get a quick total of $15.60 in your head for the twelve individual cans.

 

4)      Staying Healthy – Many studies have supported the connection between staying mentally active and having good mental health well into old age. Not relying on your calculator as often just might help you stave off the cognitive decline associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

 

5)      Impress Your Friends – Looking at a number such as 426,212,088 for just 3 seconds and being able to tell your friends that you know it’s evenly divisible by 12 may not be a useful skill, but it’s a fun party trick. How can you do that? Well, when the last 2 digits of any number make a number divisible by 4, then the whole number is divisible by 4 (88/4). And when all the digits of a number add up to a number divisible by 3, then the number is divisible by 3 (4+2+6+2+1+2+0+8+8 = 33). And any number that is divisible by both 3 and 4, must be divisible by 12. You can perform this fun party trick and many more, all thanks to mental math.

 

Why not take your GMAT study as an opportunity to really flex your mental math muscle?

 

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Do You Ever Stop to Wonder Why?

Question

Reading comprehension is often a test-taker’s least favorite part of the GMAT. The passages are dense and boring, and reading on a computer screen can be uncomfortable. These factors make it tempting to gloss over passages. And this may be just fine, because different people have different reading styles. But regardless of whether you are someone who prefers to read the passage thoroughly or to just jump straight to the questions, you need to understand the questions properly in order to avoid trap answers. Let look at question 102 on page 405.

The question uses the words “in order to.” What does that really mean? Phrases such as in order to, the role of, serves to, and the purpose of are all asking why a particular detail has been included in the paragraph. Why does an author include any detail in his writing? To support the point he is trying to make. So any question that is asking why on the GMAT is really about the main idea of the paragraph. And where can the main idea of a paragraph typically be found? In the first or last sentence. Since the detail sentence the question refers to is the last sentence, we should look at the first sentence. This sentence indicates that researchers should obtain a more representative sample of the total population with the disease. Every other sentence in the paragraph is there in order to explain why this is a good idea. Let’s look at the answers.

A)     Even if you haven’t read the passage, remember that extreme answers are almost never correct on the GMAT. It is difficult to state that a variable is the most critical if only certain variables are discussed in this brief passage.

B)      This answer is the opposite of what the paragraph attempts to accomplish. The paragraph supports Frazier and Mosteller; it doesn’t cast doubt on them. Opposite answers can be attractive because they have all the right words about the topic.

C)      This answer refers to the sentence right before the sentence the question is asking about. That sentence (lines 30 – 33) begins with for example, so it is also a supporting detail, not the main idea.

D)     Yes, a wide range of patients is a good paraphrase of the main idea which was about a more representative sample.

E)      This answer also goes against the main idea of the paragraph, rather than supporting it.

It is not necessary to read the whole passage to be able to answer a why question. Just find the main idea of the paragraph that contains the sentence referred to in the question, and then select the answer that refers to the main idea.

 

Want more information? Check out the Reading Comprehension section of my 30 Day GMAT Success book!

 

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MBA Program Spotlight: Women in Business

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Recent statistics indicate that women in America earn only 77 cents to the dollar when compared to men. Even though that statistic has been disputed and amended several times, and even though the discrepancy cannot be solely linked to discrimination, as a woman about to make a large investment in business school, you want assurance that you will receive a good return on that investment. One way to ensure your future success is to choose a school that understands the unique challenges you will face and places special emphasis on women in business. Here are three great options.

 

Pepperdine – Graziadio School of Business and Management

What’s so great about this school?  Pepperdine has been ranked as one of the top ten business schools for women by the Financial Times. Among the reasons cited was the attention given to criteria that matter most to women when selecting a school. These include: the ease of establishing a mentoring network, values-centered learning, a 42 percent female enrollment, and a strong presence of women in the school administration. Pepperdine allows fully employed women up to seven years to complete their MBA so that they can continue to grow their careers as they complete their education.

School Type: Private

Median GMAT Score: 660

Average Incoming GPA: 3.21

Percent of Applicants Accepted: 70%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 18 to 1

Average Age: 27

 

Babson

What’s so great about this school? Babson is the school for female entrepreneurs. The Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership is the only center of its kind in the world and focuses on research that examines the economic value women create in the business world. In addition, currently enrolled female students cite Babson’s percent of female faculty, supportive culture for female students, rigor of entrepreneurial coursework, and case studies that proportionately reflect women in business as reasons to choose Babson.

School Type: Private

Median GMAT Score: 618

Average Incoming GPA: 3.18

Percent of Applicants Accepted: 70%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 1.5 to 1

Average Student Age: 27

 

Simmons College School of Management

What’s so great about this school? No men! The Simmons School of Management was the first in the country to design an MBA program just for women and therefore offers an unparalleled educational experience. Gender dynamics are incorporated into classes to help women better understand how to succeed in leadership roles. Other perks of the program include a faculty that is 85 percent female, the opportunity to earn a Health Care MBA or a joint degree with a Masters in Social Work, and access to the Center for Gender in Organizations. This center publishes internationally respected research on gender equity and provides students with unique networking and career advancement opportunities.

School Type: Private

Median GMAT Score: 530        

Average Incoming GPA: 3.17

Percent of Applicants Accepted: 94%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 6 to 1

Average Student Age: 30

 

Image Courtesy of Jodi Womack with Creative Commons License


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GMAT Skills in Real Life: Topic 2

10 ITEMS OR FEWER

Finally – a store that got it right! Despite a very simple rule that less is used for what cannot be counted (snow, anxiety, interest, beer) and fewer is used for what can be counted (snowflakes, moments of anxiety, interesting people, bottles of beer), grocery stores across America stubbornly refuse to change their “10 items or less” signs. This may lead one to believe that proper grammar and diction don’t matter, but they do.

A spate of recent articles suggests that proper grammar in the workplace may be more important than you realize. The Wall Street Journal story This Embarrasses You and I* kicked off a series of related articles this summer that all emphasized the importance of grammar during a job hunt and in the workplace. (See also Why Grammar Counts at Work and I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.) Bad grammar is all around us and some people—people who may matter a lot to your career—really do notice it.

Sticklers for grammar might find those who are truly ignorant of the rules obnoxious, but they might also find the over-correctors just as bad. The over-correctors are those people who think that whichever word sounds more formal or educated is the grammatically correct one, and then they sneer at the people who actually follow the rules, regardless of sound. The most egregious of such violations include saying I instead of me, well instead of good, and whom instead of who. Here is a quick refresher:

 

I: the subject (person doing the action) of a sentence or phrase

She said that I was the person in the Darth Vader costume at the Halloween party.

               Mitchell and I studied together for the GMAT, but I scored much higher than he did.

Me: the object (person receiving the action) of a sentence or phrase

                The professor was smiling as he handed the midterm back to Graham and me.

                Just between you and me, I think my sister’s new restaurant serves terrible food.

 

Well: an adverb. Commonly answers the question “how” in order to describe an adjective, adverb, or verb.

How are you doing? I am doing well.

Good: an adjective. Commonly answers the question “what is it like” in order to describe a noun.

How are you? I am good.

*If you aren’t sure whether you should say well or good, simply substitute in another adverb or adjective. You would never say I am quickly or I am happily, so you shouldn’t say I am well. The construction I am needs to be followed by an adjective.

 

Whom: the object (person receiving the action) of a sentence or phrase

Whom did you call to ask about the city’s policies on leaf collection?

                The person next to whom you were seated was wearing an enormous sunhat.

Who: the subject (person doing the action) of a sentence or phrase

Who called us to ask why we hadn’t put our leaves into clear trash bags?

                The person who was wearing the enormous sunhat was seated next to you.

*Again, a simple substitution can clear up any ambiguity. If you think you should use whom, try substituting another object pronoun (him, them, her, us).  If you think you should use who, try substituting another subject pronoun (he, they, she, we).

 

Even if you are an accountant or a programmer, Kyle Wiens won’t hire you if you can’t pass his grammar test, and you can bet that other employers feel the same. So while you may not see any practical use of the Pythagorean Theorem or the ability to logically complete an argument beyond the GMAT, consider the time you spend practicing for the Sentence Correction portion as a little investment in your future. Proper grammar just might give you an edge over the competition when you get out there in the real world.

 

Image Courtesy of KirrilyRobert with Creative Commons License


Time to ace the GMAT?
Learn more about how you can achieve your own GMAT success with 30 DAY GMAT Success!


+ 30 Day GMAT Success is Now Available in Mandarin Chinese, in bookstores across Asia! We have gone global! The first international edition is now available in Chinese, published by Business Weekly Publishing.
+ psst... did you know that 30 Day GMAT Success is now the No.1 Bestselling GMAT Test Guide on Amazon Kindle? Thank you for your support! 30 Day GMAT Success is now officially the bestselling GMAT prep book on Amazon Kindle.