Learnist Board of the Week: Destroy GMAT Reading Comp (once and for all)

Check out this new Learnboard with a step by step guide to conquering RC once and for all!

Step 1 — To start, here’s the mandatory books you’ll need to get:

  • GMAT Official Guide – 13th edition
  • GMAT Official Guide – Verbal review, 2nd edition

You’ll want to know the RC questions in this book backwards, forwards, and upside down.

Other books with lots of passages to practice:

  • Veritas Prep – Reading Comprehension Guide
  • Manhattan GMAT – RC Strategy Guide
  • Artistotle Prep – RC Grail

Step 2 — Read The Economist, or other high-quality publications!

The Economist is a weekly newspaper focusing on international politics and business news. Not only is its subject-matter right up GMAT’s alley, but its written in a more advanced vernacular than your average newspaper — a level matched by the GMAT RC.

As you read these articles, do the following:

  • Circle the topic
  • Underline any transition words
  • Write down the purpose of each paragraph
  • Write down the author’s point of view in your own words
  • Write down the Main Idea in your own words

Do all of this to build your RC skills — ALWAYS read with a pen in your hand, and always ask the million dollar question, “Why is the author saying this?”

Fun fact: You can use your Delta Skymiles for a free subscription. 3,200 miles gives you 51 issues!

For Steps 3 through 7, check out How to Destory GMAT Reading Comp (once and for all)!


Argument Essay sample + feedback

Looking for a sample Argument Essay with some expert feedback? Here’s a real essay from a fellow GMAT-student!


The following paragraph recently appeared in an editorial printed in the opinion section of a local newspaper:

The recent surge in violence in the southern part of the city is a result of a shortage of police officers and an absence of leadership on the part of the city council. In order to rectify the burgeoning growth of crime that threatens the community, the city council must address this issue seriously. Instead of spending time on peripheral issues such as education quality, community vitality, and job opportunity, the city council must realize that the crime issue is serious and double the police force, even if this action requires budget cuts from other city programs.

With the allotted time remaining, discuss how well reasoned you find this argument.


The argument claims that the recent surge in violence in the southern part of the city is a result of a shortage of police officers and an absence of leadership on the part of the city council and hence the city council must react seriously to the situation by doubling the police force even if doing so requires budget cuts from other city programs. The conclusion of the argument relies on assumptions for which there is no clear evidence. Hence the argument is weak or unconvincing and has several flaws.

First and most importantly, the argument readily assumes that the recent surge in violence in the southern part of the city is a result of a shortage of police officers. This statement is a stretch in a sense that it fails to establish that the shortage of police officers is the only reason for the recent surge in violence. Other factors such as poor economy, a lack of job opportunity and a declined in education quality can also result in a surge in violence. Take the US for example, its rate of violence crimes increases with that of the unemployment which is currently at 9.8%. Without establishing the root cause of the situation carefully, the argument may lead to corrective actions which will not produce the desired outcome.

Second the argument claims that the city council does not realize the seriousness of the recent surge in violence and therefore is not addressing the surge in violence seriously. This is again very weak and fails to prove that the city council is not addressing the surge in violence seriously enough. It could be a case whereby the city council is still working on the issue but there have been no concrete actions yet.

Finally, the argument claims that the city council should double the police force at the expenses of other issues such as education quality, community vitality and job opportunity to curb the recent surge in violence. This again is a far-fetch conclusion in that it did not explain how doubling the police force can help in curbing the recent surge in violence even if it true that indeed a shortage of police force is the cause of the surge in violence.

In summary, the argument is flawed and therefore unconvincing. It could be considerably strengthen if the author clearing mentioned all the relevant facts. In order to ascertain the root cause and subsequently the solution to a situation, it is essential to have full knowledge of all contributing factors and weigh them appropriately before arriving at the conclusion.


This essay is absolutely on the right track. It has clear, forceful writing & a good grasp of the task at hand! Here’s the bullet-points where it could be fine-tuned:

– Style-wise, “hence” is used twice in the opening paragraph; it’s hard to come up with good transition words, but varying up your diction can be impressive to the reader

– For this thesis, the reader is going to look straight at the last sentence of the opening paragraph: “Hence the argument is weak or unconvincing and has several flaws.”

Look for a way to combine this with the previous sentence to make it strong and more stand-alone. The word “or” weakens this thesis – why not use “and”? Always aim for the strongest language possible when criticizing the argument.

-1st paragraph – the phrases “in a sense” and “may lead” are a bit wishy-washy; excellent logic is displayed here and the link between crime and unemployment is strong. It could be improved by a more specific example, such as a case where someone unemployed committed a crime.

-2nd paragraph – There’s not enough of a reason why the city council doesn’t realize. As in the first body paragraph, can it be related  to the real world? How do city councils function? How could they be unaware?

– 3rd paragraph – “far-fetched” should be written instead of “far-fetch”  – What would be even more powerful here would be to discuss how lack of quality education, community vitality and job opportunity can lead to an increase in violence that would overwhelm even a doubled police force

– Conclusion – It’s excellent, with a nice adding in of how it could be strengthened!

Make sure to leave 1-2 min. at the end to proofread your Argument essay – A couple grammatical errors are not massively important, but they do detract from the overall reader impression, so practice writing several essays until you can effectively manage your time!

3 Ways of Looking at “Profit” Questions on the GMAT

As someone who is about to shell out hundreds of dollars in MBA application fees, you know that money makes the GMAT-world go round. Profit is an essential concept for any aspiring MBA admissions applicant. The GMAT tests this concept in both Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency questions in three main ways. Let’s examine the need-to-know formulas with three GMAT practice questions.

1. A firm increases its revenues by 10% between 2008 and 2009. The firm’s costs increase by 8% during this same time. What is the firm’s percent increase in profits over this period, if profits are defined as revenues minus costs?

(1) The firm’s initial profit is $200,000.

(2) The firm’s initial revenues are 1.5 times its initial costs.

In this question from Grockit, we can start with our most basic Profit formula:

Profit = Revenue – Cost

Using Statement (1), we can say that 200,000 = R – C.
(1.1)r – (1.08)c = 200,000(1 + x), where x equals the amount of the increase. We still do not know R and C so we can’t find x. Insufficient.

Using Statement (2), 1.5c – c = p and (1.1)(1.5)c – (1.08)c = (1 + x)P. Here we can simplify.

.5c = p

.57c = (1 + x)p
Without continuing to solve, we can see that we can solve for x using substitution. .57c = (1 + x)(.5c), and dividing both sides by c will cancel out that variable and allow us to isolate x. Statement 2 is sufficient. Now to a more challenging question!

2. A store purchased 20 coats that each cost an equal amount and then sold each of the 20 coats at an equal price. What was the stores gross profit on the 20 coats?

(1) If the selling price per coat had been twice as much, the store’s gross profit on the 20 coats would have been $2400.

(2) If the selling price per coat had been $2 more, the store’s gross profit on the 20 coats would have been $440.

This GMAT Prep question asks about gross profit.

Gross Profit = Selling price – Cost

For the value Data Sufficiency question, we need to know the price of each coat and the selling price of each coat. From the given information, we can use our known formula to set us the equation: P = 20 (s – c). So either we’ll need a value for s and a value for c, or we’ll need the value of (s – c).

Statement (1) tells us that $2400 = (20(2s – c)) or 2400 = 40s – 20c. We can divide both sides by 20 and simplify it to: 120 = 2s – c. We still don’t know s and c. Insufficient.

Statement (2) tells us that 440 = 20(s + 2 – c). Let’s simplify: 440 = 20s + 40 – 20c. 400 = 20s – 20c. 400 = 20 (s – c). 20 = s – c. Sufficient. Even though we didn’t solve for s and c separately, we were able to find the value of (s – c). Sometimes DS will surprise you!

3. If the cost price of 20 articles is equal to the selling price of 25 articles, what is the % profit or loss made by the merchant?

A. 25% loss
B. 25% profit
C. 20% loss
D. 20% profit
E. 5% profit

Profit/Loss % = (Sales Price – Cost Price) / Cost Price x 100

The question asks about % profit or loss. It tells us that 20c = 25s, or 4c = 5s. So the ratio of the sales price to the cost price is 4/5.

Let’s simplify our Profit/Loss % formula by dividing each term by the cost price:

Profit/Loss % = (S/C – C/C) x 100

P/L% = (S/C – 1) x 100
We know that S/C = 4/5 for this problem. So we can plug in and solve:

P/L% = (4/5 – 1) x 100

P/L% = (-1/5) x 100

P/L% = -20%. The answer is a 20% loss.

Grammar Guide: the usage of “those”

Confused about how “those” works on the SAT, ACT, GRE, or GMAT? Let’s take a look at a question from Manhattan GMAT that uses this word!

Salt deposits and moisture threaten to destroy the Mohenjo-Daro excavation in Pakistan, the site of an ancient civilization that flourished at the same time as the civilizations in the Nile delta and the river valleys of Tigris and Euphrates.

A) that flourished at the same time as the civilizations
B) that had flourished at the same time as had the civilizations
C) that flourished at the same time those had
D) flourishing at the same time as those did
E) flourishing at the same time as those were

In general, “those” is the plural of “that.” It’s in a group called “determiners” along with “this”, “that”, “these”, “those,” “here” and there that are technically pronouns but often function more like adjectives.

For C, D, and E, “those” is meant to mean something like “the ones” and could be used as a pronoun to replace a plural antecedent if there was one in the sentence, and if the construction was parallel.

The correct answer is (A).

Quick Guide to IR: Graphics Interpretation on the GMAT

GI was one of the 4 new Integrated Reasoning question types launched in June 2012 in the Integrated Reasoning section. Graphics Interpretation questions will present you with a piece of data in the form of a graph, Venn diagram, etc and two “fill-in-the-blank” statements.

Integrated Reasoning (IR) will be scored on a scale of 1 to 8, in whole-number increments. IR scoring is based on the number of correct questions, and the questions will have multiple integrated parts. To receive credit for a question, you will have to answer each part correctly. There is no partial credit; you will not get extra points for getting part of a question right.

Check out some video explanations and practice questions on this Learnboard!

Using Strategy on the GMAT to Improve your Score

When a GMAT student asks me, “What can I do to get better scores?” usually the first thing I ask is, “What is your current strategy?” Most of the time, I get a pretty vague response. Reading about strategy is the OG, on the BTG forum, or in a GMAT book is NOT the same as actually having a solid strategy. The word “strategy” may sound fuzzy, but all it means is a simple step-by-step approach for each unique question type.

Not only do you have to choose a strategy that works for you, but you have to implement it every time, practicing enough so that is becomes second-hand. Ballet dancers practice a pirouette millions of times, so that when they perform onstage they don’t have to think about it. You want to do the same thing for GMAT.

Before you sit down to take your next diagnostic on GMATPrep, quickly review this strategy cheat sheet (or make one of your own). These methods may not necessarily work for you, but you’ll only learn what does through trial and error. For more in-depth discussion on each of these strategies, search my other posts.


Reading Comprehension –

1. Break down the passage. 2. Rephrase the question. 3. Predict an answer. 4. Eliminate.

Critical Reasoning –

1. Identify the Conclusion, Evidence & Assumptions. 2. Rephrase the question. 3. Predict and answer.

Sentence Correction –

1. Spot the primary error. 2. Eliminate answer choices that do not fix. 3. Look for secondary errors and eliminate.


Problem Solving –

1. Write down the given information. 2. Scan the answer choices. 3. Look for ways to pick numbers or plug in. 4. Recall relevant formulas. 5. Solve.

Data Sufficiency –

1. Identify the type of DS. 2. Determine what is needed for sufficiency. 3. Evaluate statements independently. 4. Combine if needed.

GMAT Prep Analysis: Sentence Correction “Comparison” Question

It’s always valuable to take a good hard look at questions from the GMAC available in the two free GMATPrep CATs and the two supplemental GMAT Exam Pack 1 (for $39). These are all “official” retired GMAT question, so while the GMATPrep does NOT offer explanations for its questions, if we can come up with discerning explanations on our own, we’ll be one step closer to a strong Verbal score on Test Day!

Here’s one question students often get incorrect from the GMAT Prep:

So called green taxes, which exact a price for the use of polluting or nonrenewable fuels, are having a positive effect on the environment and natural resource base of countries as varied as China, the Netherlands, and Hungary.

(A) as varied as
(B) as varied as are
(C) as varied as those of
(D) that are as varied as
(E) that are varied as are

This question tests 2 concepts: Idiom, and Meaning. Idiomatically, when we make a comparison with “as” we need to use a “double as,” or “as…as.” Only (A), (B), and (C) contain the correct idiom. Now we must carefully examine the Meaning.

Here we are comparing the “positive effect” in various “countries.” Since “China,” “the Netherlands,” and “Hungary” are all countries, the comparison is clear in (A).

Why can’t it be (B) or (C)?

The word “are” in (B) is simply not necessary. It does not make the sentence (1) more grammatically correct, (2) cleaner stylistically, or (3) clearer in terms of meaning. (A) is a better choice because it has no grammar error, is shorter, and already has a crystal-clear meaning.

(C) contains a pronoun error – “those” would logically refer to the “environment and natural resource base” of the countries of China, the Netherlands, and Hungary, but we are comparing the countries to one another NOT their respective environment and natural resource bases. The COUNTRIES themselves are “varied,” not the “bases.” Notice how the inclusion of this pronoun changes the Meaning.

This questions serves to remind us that while Idioms are not heavily tested anymore on the GMAT, knowing some of the most common (such as “as…as”) can save you time on Test Day. It also reminds us to pay attention to both Style and Meaning when using process of elimination to remove wrong answer choices.

How to Start the GMAT from Scratch

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”


More than 5,400 programs offered by more than 1,500 universities and institutions in 83 countries use the GMAT exam as part of the selection criteria for their programs.  Just getting started with your GMAT prep? This Learnboard covers the fundamentals what you’ll expect to see on the exam: Quant (arithmetic, algebra, number properties, geometry, etc.), Verbal (grammar, reading comprehension, etc.), AWA, and Integrated Reasoning.

Fast facts:

  • The GMAT exam assesses higher-order reasoning skills: Verbal, Quantitative, Analytical Writing, and Integrated Reasoning. Its cost to test takers is US $250.
  • Available time slots at test centers change continuously based on capacity and ongoing registration. You will find out which times are available at your chosen test center when you register.
  • You’ll receive an individual score for each of the three sections on the GMAT. The combination of your quantitative and verbal scores determines your scaled score, which is given on a scale of 200-800.

GMAT: SC “Modification” Question of the Day!

“Modification” on the GMAT refers to words, phrases, or clauses that function as descriptors. Some modifiers include adjectives, adverbs, prepositional phrases, etc. Try this Sentence Correction question on your own, then review the correct answer below!

No matter how patiently they explain their reasons for confiscating certain items, travelers often treat customs inspectors like wanton poachers rather than government employees.

(A) travelers often treat customs inspectors like wanton poachers rather than government employees
(B) travelers often treat customs inspectors as wanton poachers instead of government employees
(C) travelers often treat customs inspectors as if they were not government employees but wanton poachers
(D) customs inspectors are often treated by travelers as if they were wanton poachers rather than government employees
(E) customs inspectors are often treated not like government employees but wanton poachers by travelers

The main error here is one of modification. An opening clause describing an action with a comma at the end of it must be immediately followed by the person or thing DOING the action.

“No matter how patiently they explain their reasons for confiscating certain items,” is the opening clause here. We can ask, who is logically doing the “confiscating”? It wouldn’t be the travelers, since it’s illogical that they would confiscate their own belongings.

Based on this logic alone, we can eliminate A, B, and C.

For E, there are several issues. “By travelers” is far from its verb “treated” and has faulty parallelism. Since the first part of the idiom begins with “like”, we would want “like” to follow the word “but” as well.

That is why the correct answer is (D).

Learnist: GMAT “Logical Structure” Reading Questions

Questions that ask about the “function” of a detail, sentence or paragraph is a Logical Structure question. These frequently appear on the GMAT — always look for the logical keywords that tell you where the author is taking the discussion.

Authors organize their ideas in paragraphs, and each paragraph has a mini-purpose. Why, otherwise, would the author write it? Try to get a sense of the function of EACH paragraph as you read by looking for the keywords. Put the “function” in your own words and write it down!

Since keywords and phrases are ALL you have to go on to extrapolate the structure of the passage and the author’s intentions, practice pulling out the key phrases in this passage. Then scroll down, comparing them to those the author identified.

 This blog is for GRE passages, but they are the same in terms of form and content to the GMAT. Notice the list of “Function” verbs here. Copy them down and try to “assign” an infinitive verb to each paragraph. What is author DOING with each paragraph?

Just like every paragraph has a function, each sentence within each paragraph has a function. Start with the overall function of the paragraph, then ask: how does this detail relate to the paragraph’s overall function? Is it aiding the main idea? Qualifying it? Making a concession?